EU sets long-term climate and energy goals

  • 14-Jan-2009 05:06 EST

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (left) and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs discuss the EU plan for energy and climate change. The European Parliament voted for the package on Dec. 17. (European Communities, 2009)

Twenty is the number to remember with the latest emissions targets for the European Union (EU). The long-term goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20%, improve energy efficiency 20%, and obtain 20% of energy from renewable sources—all by 2020.

The vote on Dec. 17 by the law-making European Parliament settled discussion started in January 2008 by proposals from the European Commission. Included in this climate and energy package were revisions to the EU Emissions Trading System, emissions-reduction efforts outside the EU, carbon capture and storage, fuel production, and vehicle CO2 emissions.

The package could have other effects, according to Commission President José Manuel Barroso: “The EU's climate and energy package is part of the solution both to the climate crisis and to the current economic and financial crisis. It represents a green 'new deal' which will enhance the competitiveness of EU industry in an increasingly carbon-constrained world. Moving to a low-carbon economy will encourage innovation, provide new business opportunities, and create new green jobs.”

Along with 20% reduction in greenhouse gases within the EU, the package also enables that figure to grow to 30% reduction, provided that a comprehensive international agreement in which similar commitments are made by other developed countries is reached.

Twenty percent of energy coming from renewable sources is planned by removing administrative barriers and encouraging cooperation. The transportation industries have a separate goal of using 10% renewable fuel, but have rules preventing biofuels that can have a negative environmental impact.

The Emissions Trading System (ETS) allows the buying and selling of CO2 allowances to enable companies to remain profitable while overall reduction levels are still met. Revisions to this system include increased auctioning of allowances, with the funds going to member states to combat climate change.

The ETS will have 300 million allowances to fund the start of a program that can capture and store CO2 in up to 12 locations. Long-term use is expected to be from the reinforced carbon market.

Sixty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from small-scale transport, buildings, agriculture, and waste, and the 10% reduction of those by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, will be divided between countries based on gross domestic product per capita.

Legislation for vehicles has been revamped also, and emissions levels from the new-car fleet will be reduced to 120g CO2/km between 2012 and 2015. Furthermore, the long-term target of 95g CO2/km has been set for 2020.

Fuel suppliers must also reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 6% by 2020; however, depending on the state of international projects, electric cars, and carbon capturing, a review in 2012 could change it to a 10% reduction.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: “I am very pleased with the outcome. There has been some tough negotiation and some long nights of debate, but the result is a truly remarkable piece of legislation which puts the EU on track toward a low-carbon-energy economy in which renewable energy sources play a key role.”

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