A Framework for the EU’s future Climate and Energy Policy
Can an ambitious plan to achieve a ‘competitive, low-carbon economy’ protect the interests of those in poverty?
The publication of the Green Paper A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies marked the launch of a public consultation seeking input from Member States, other EU institutions and stakeholders/interest groups which will feed into the work of the European Commission (EC) to develop a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies. This public consultation aspires to produce coherent and innovative climate and energy policy which will provide more certainty to investors, stimulate innovation and demand for low-carbon technologies, and allow the EU to engage actively in the international negotiations for a new climate agreement. The Commission is keen to build upon the “experience and lessons from the current framework” whilst taking into account the longer-term perspective, achieving a competitive, low-carbon economy by 2050. The following questions are among those posed by this publication:
- What lessons can be learnt from experience with the existing framework?
- What climate and energy targets could be set for 2030?
- How can coherence between different policy instruments be ensured?
- How can policies best be defined to contribute to EU competitiveness and security of energy supplies?
- How can Member States' different capacities to act be taken into account?
The EU has a clear framework guiding its climate and energy policies until 2020, and is making strong and sustained progress towards meeting the 2020 climate and energy targets. Momentum therefore exists with regards to developing an ambitious 2030 framework for climate and energy policy. The current, 2020 policy framework includes three headline targets: 1) a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below the 1990 level;
2) a 20% share for renewable energy sources in the energy used;
and 3) a 20% saving in primary energy consumption (compared to projections before the agreement on the climate and energy targets for 2020).
EU GHG emissions for 2011 were estimated at 16% below 1990 levels whilst GDP had grown by 48% since 1990. In 2010, renewables’ share of energy consumption was 12.7% vis-à-vis 8.5% in 2005, and pertaining to the third target, it was reported that primary energy consumption peaked in 2005/2006 at around 1825 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) and has been decreasing since then to 1730 Mtoe in 2011. Eager to maintain this momentum, the EC recognises the importance of striking a balance between measures at EU level and Member States’ flexibility to meet targets in ways appropriate to national circumstances whilst being consistent with the internal market. As with the implementation of the 2020 targets, flexibility will be afforded to Member States under the 2030 framework.
A key discussion is underway as to whether or not the 2030 targets should be at EU, national or sectoral level and indeed whether or not these targets should be legally binding. The Commission is also consulting on issues relating to the international negotiations of a new legally binding agreement for climate action —the results of which are expected by the end of 2015.
In light of the economic crisis, this Green Paper is explicit in considering the challenges faced by the EU in making progress towards a competitive, low carbon economy whilst simultaneously addressing the problem of the affordability of energy. Whilst the Green Paper claims that the EU is a frontrunner in clean and more energy-efficient technologies, products and services and eco-technologies —which together are expected to generate some 5 million jobs in the period up to 2020— its policy in this area has been criticised for having a negative impact on energy prices, adversely affecting the affordability of energy for vulnerable households and the competitiveness of energy intensive sectors.
The outcome of this consultation process will be of significant interest to all parties concerned as it is hoped that the 2030 framework will be as innovative, forward-thinking and ambitious as has been anticipated. When affordability of energy must be addressed as a matter of critical urgency, policy makers and politicians are granted another golden opportunity to strike the right balance — in favour of vulnerable families and householders. Their voices must be heard in this consultation.
Stephen N. Rooney