EU to refine energy transition targets

In its report ‘Trends and projections in Europe 2013’ from 9 October 2013, the European Environment Agency (EEA) assesses the progress made towards energy efficiency across EU Member States since the 2008 European Energy and climate package and their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy consumption by 20%, as well as including 20% of renewable energy sources in energy consumption by 2020. Are Member States still on track halfway through the process?

Greenhouse gas emission reduction target nearly met

The EU has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 18% between 1990 and 2008. This good result strongly suggests that efforts in this regard have been successful. According to EEA, the EU is well on track and could even exceed its goals.

Such estimates, however, were made on an EU-wide scale: although global goals are within reach, the picture is much more mixed across Member States. Six of them (France, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom) have not met the intermediary goal of 10.7% by 2011-2012.

The European CO2 emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) should therefore contribute to meeting this first goal at an EU-wide level. It enables Member States falling short of the mark to buy carbon credits from those which exceed their goals. This scheme is similar to and operates in parallel with the emissions trading scheme set out in the Kyoto protocol.

Already 13% of green energy sources part of energy mix

In 2011, 13% of the energy consumed in Europe came from renewable sources. According to trends described in the EEA report, the goal of including 20% renewable sources in the EU energy consumption should be met right on time.

The four best-performing Member States in this regard are France, Germany, Bulgaria and Denmark. However, the EEA points out that the economic crisis and the global spending cuts across Europe are a significant obstacle to the implementation of this policy.

Energy efficiency: Europe can do more

The EEA is less optimistic as far as energy efficiency is concerned. Unless Member States launch ambitious national policies, its report points out, the EU will lack of momentum to meet the 20% energy consumption reduction target by 2020.

On the day of the official publication of the report, EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx insisted that “there is more progress to be made. In order for Member States to achieve emission reductions required by science, they must make sure that the decisions made today will not become an obstacle to a low-carbon future.”

Energy transition, a vital goal for the EU

The European Commission is very much in favour of energy efficiency investments, as they enable the EU to find solutions to present and future challenges. The example most frequently cited by the Commission is, of course, the fight against global warming.

But behind this noble goal, the EU and its Member States have a stronger motivation to act: energy security and independence. Besides, energy transition investments would make it easier for Member States to achieve the external spending reduction goals set out in the Lisbon Treaty.

At a time when the Commission is considering giving up the 2008 Energy and climate package’s third goal (20% increase in energy efficiency), the EEA report provides European heads of states and governments with an honest and detailed evaluation of their achievements and the progress that remains to be made to improve their energy policies and honour their commitments, thus showing the way for the EU to pioneer energy transition.

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