In a decisive vote, the European Parliament overturned the Commission’s proposal for the EU’s 2030 energy and climate framework.
With 341 votes in favour (54%), 263 against (42%) and 26 abstentions, the Plenary called for three binding targets: 40% greenhouse gas cuts (compared with 1990 levels), at least 30% energy share from renewables and 40% energy savings.
In its low climate ambition proposal of 22 January, the Commission supported a 27% EU renewables target, but said this should not be broken down into binding national targets.
It also avoided making any proposals on tapping the huge energy efficiency potential in the EU. Fortunately, the EP decided otherwise and called for a 40% energy efficiency target, binding for each member state.
The Commission’s proposal, already sliding back from its own “Green Paper” of March 2013, came as a result of pressures by industrial lobbies blaming climate policies and renewables for the soaring energy prices. However, “European economic competitiveness is not determined by energy prices,” according to a study published in January by a group of EU research bodies and academic institutions. Clearly, the Commission has ignored reports showing that high oil and gas prices are likely to have a more serious impact on the EU during the next two decades. It also bypasses basic conclusions of its own report on Energy Economic Developments in Europe, according to which, the Real Unit Energy Cost of the European manufacturing sector is similar to that of the US and lower to China’s.
Despite pressure from countries promoting the use of nuclear energy and coal, the MEPs voted (347-308) in favour of binding national renewable energy targets. Moreover, in a tight vote (323-316), the MEPs requested the decarbonisation target for transport fuels, as detailed in the Fuel Quality Directive, to be continued beyond 2020, which would affect the import of high-carbon fuels (such as those from tar sands). MEPs also called for environmental impact assessments for shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing.
The Parliament’s decision gains considerable weight, in view of the upcoming Energy Council of March 4th, in Athens.
Reacting to the European Parliament’s vote, Jason Anderson, Head of Climate and Energy - WWF European Policy Office said:
“Today, MEPs reacted to the Commission’s weak climate and energy proposals with a much-needed reality check. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are integral to achieving a low-carbon future, and can’t be downgraded to afterthoughts.
A comprehensive package of binding targets for 2030 will reduce Europe’s dependence on volatile energy imports, create employment in low-carbon sectors, deliver health benefits for EU citizens, and help to ensure the avoidance of dangerous climate change.”
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