EU needs 'strong and ambitious' position on energy

It's up to member states to legislate individually on energy and climate change, but Europe must present a united front ahead of the Paris climate talks, writes Patrizia Toia.

By Patrizia Toia

Patrizia Toia (IT, S&D) is the ITRE Committee opinion rapporteur on the New Circular Economy Action Plan

12 Dec 2014

The European Union is facing some crucial decisions which will affect the lives of its citizens in years to come. Defining new climate and energy targets is essential for the role that the EU will play in future global balances.

These decisions concern the further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) with respect to the 2020 objective, the reform of the system for trading greenhouse gas emissions - the emission trading scheme (ETS), the system for trading GHG emissions within the community, increasing the contribution of renewables to the European energy mix and improving the governance and coordination of national policies. The objective is to improve current European performance and to strengthen the EU's global leadership in terms of energy, competitiveness and sustainability. Considerable progress has been made in recent years in the field of climate and energy, however, a lot remains to be done

The commission has set two new mandatory objectives for 2030. The first of these involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent compared to the levels of 1990 and will be achieved through commitments undertaken by member states individually. The second objective relates to renewable energy sources and aims to cover 27 per cent of energy consumption at European level. Contrary to what is laid down for emissions, this objective is only applied at European level. As a result, the EU will not set national targets, giving member states greater flexibility when drawing up their energy strategies. It will be up to the individual capitals to decide how to make their energy policy more efficient and sustainable, taking into account each state's circumstances, such as their energy mix and ability to increase the share of energy produced from renewable sources. Member states will be required to improve their energy performance without being forced to introduce heavily distortive measures, as has often been the case following the adoption of the 20-20-20 package. The future of energy policy, which needs to be carefully reconciled with the environment around us, starts in Brussels and must be implemented in all countries. We will make sure that this is done in the interest of European citizens.

"It will be up to the individual capitals to decide how to make their energy policy more efficient and sustainable, taking into account each state’s circumstances, such as their energy mix and ability to increase the share of energy produced from renewable sources"

The reform of the ETS sector will need to address the lowering of carbon prices that has resulted in a proliferation of permits - as many as two billion have now been delivered. To ensure the permits market remains stable, the commission has proposed a reserve which should be established from 2021 and automatically regulate the introduction of shares to the market. An important role is reserved for improving the management of national policies at European level, by creating a new governance system and a series of new indicators to secure a competitive, sustainable and secure energy system. Member states should draw up their plans as part of a common approach, which would ensure greater coordination and monitoring by the EU. To secure safe and sustainable energy, we will need to invest in the research and development of clean technologies.

It will be up to us as legislators to strike the right balance in order to reconcile the protection of strategic sectors for our economy with a greater protection of the environment. In my view, it is essential that the European Union adopts a strong and ambitious position in international negotiations for a new global climate agreement, to be concluded in Paris at the end of 2015. Without a clear position, we risk jeopardising our efforts. We need to become best practice models for emerging economies. If Europe plays a leading role in Paris, we will be able to reach a binding agreement for all - an objective which is absolutely essential for tackling climate change.

 

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Energy & Climate
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