European Commission Announces Climate Change Package

Last week the European Commission announced its proposal for a climate change package that includes new targets for renewable energy, GHG emissions, and energy efficiency. Along with policy focusing on efficiency in both building and transport, targets aim for a 40% reduction of GHG emissions from their 1990 levels, and a 27% share of renewable energy for the EU as a whole.

The package, to be proposed to the European Council in March, removes renewable energy mandates for individual countries after current targets are met, which call for a 20% emission reduction and 20% renewable energy share by 2020. In 2011 the European Union reached a 12.7% share of renewable capacity, and in 2012, had reduced emissions levels by 18% compared to 1990 levels.

Despite the Commission’s claims that the targets are both economically realistic and environmentally ambitious, many argue the targets fall short for a union historically known as a world leader in climate change policy. Governments within the Union say the exclusion of country-specific targets may remove the incentive and rationale used by governments to support project development, and the ambiguity of collective targets could leave governments arguing over individual state responsibility.

Ultimately the gap between the proposal and the recommendations of its critics is economic, as the recent financial crisis pervading Europe has shaped its practical response to climate change. With gas prices comparatively higher in Europe than in the U.S., the Commission has chosen to focus on short-term solutions in the form of continued subsidization of fossil fuels. This argument regarding short-term and long-term priorities is central to the renewable energy debate, and many have pointed out the need for a larger conversation regarding the allocation of energy resources in the EU.

Rather than an invitation for other countries around the world to step back from aggressive targets, this decision presents an opportunity for other nations to lead in adopting a comprehensive approach that includes binding renewable energy targets on both the national and regional level. Just as state-specific RPS policies have encouraged development of renewable technologies in the U.S., a localized approach and focused targets are valuable in spurring renewable energy innovation in the EU.

by Ian Law, Client Relations and Marketing Associate for Renewable Choice