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New climate deal for Europe

February 12, 2014
tags:#climate change, #CO2 emissions, #EU, #Europe
by:Itai Lahat
At the end of last month, amidst global weather getting weirder, crazier and scarier, some good news came out from Brussels. Europe will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, the toughest climate change target of any region in the world, and will produce 27% of its energy from renewable sources by the same date.

That’s definitely good news. Why? Because it sets a standard. The world is due to meet in Paris next year to decide on a global framework for limiting human-caused climate change. The EU is the first to decide on targets for emissions reductions. The decision will put pressure on other governments to match these new targets set out by Europe, or to better them. The leader of those progressive goals was none other than Germany. The country, one of the world leaders in renewable energy development, firmly supported both the emissions reduction and renewable energy targets. The German environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, has said that the 40% cut in emissions was the minimum Germany would accept, adding that at the international climate talks in Paris next year, it’s not inconceivable that the world could decide on greater target than 40%.

On the other side of the tough negotiations was the UK. It fiercely opposed installing a firm renewable energy target, but was outvoted by other EU member states, including France, Italy, and the Germans.

One of the driving forces behind the new targets is also a report published last year by the WWF. The prominent conservation group Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is a very realistic goal for the European Union provided the region sets ambitious policy and energy goals to reach by 2030. WWF’s recommended goals for 2030 would include a minimum of 38% energy savings, 40% of fuel supply from clean sources, and a 50% cut on carbon emissions. This is all based on analysis by Ecofys, a Dutch consultancy group that found 100% renewables by 2050 would be realistic as long as significant developments are made in the coming decades to get more momentum going.

But then, at the beginning of this month, the EU parliament decided to try and raise the bar a bit. The EU Parliament has called on the EU Commission and European nations to implement a 30% renewable energy consumption target out to 2030, The Climate Group has reported. This would raise the 27% renewable energy target agreed to by EU policy makers late last month. The Parliament is also calling for a binding 40% cut in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels, and a 40% energy efficiency target. European Commission research has found that increased development of renewables has already led to savings of €10 billion in avoided imported fuel costs, so rising renewable energy use is proving to be helpful in keeping Europe’s industry competitive globally. Hopefully, the rest of Europe will make this small, but influential correction.

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Itai Lahat