European Union leaders will set an October deadline for agreeing on climate and renewable energy targets, as heads of state meet in Brussels on Thursday, according to a leaked document.
It is expected that the European Council’s two-day summit will be chiefly focused on events in Ukraine, but the EU’s efforts to curb climate change will also be high on the agenda.
This follows months of talks over the form of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework. Delegates have discussed to what degree Europe’s carbon emissions should be cut and how renewable and energy efficiency targets should be legislated.
According to the draft paper, seen by Reuters, “The European Council will take stock of progress made on these issues at its meeting in June […] with a view to taking a final decision on the new policy framework as quickly as possible and no later than October 2014.”
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One of the main talking points will be the issue of binding national renewable targets. The British government, along with the European commission – the only EU body able to approve such legislation – has so far been opposed to introducing renewable energy targets for individual nations.
In January, the commission voted for carbon emission reduction targets of 40% by 2030 but set a EU-wide target for renewable energy of 27%, rather than setting a target for each state.
Critics called these “toothless” targets a “major disappointment” warning that they would undermine investment in renewable technologies.
In a later vote, the European parliament – whose verdict is not binding and can be ignored by EU leaders – seemed to side with these critics. MEPs voted in favour of a framework that would require all nations to generate at least 30% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
However, in a written statement to parliament, energy secretary Ed Davey recently reaffirmed his intentions to rule out national targets ahead of this month’s negotiations.
As heads of state meet, business and industry leaders and campaigners are urging the UK’s representatives to drop this opposition.
“Progress towards setting an ambitious but credible emissions reduction target of 40% for 2030 is crucial for British businesses at the European Council”, said Nicola Walker, director for business environment at CBI, the UK’s leading business lobbying organisation.
“Alongside long-term reform of the Emissions Trading System, this target will help to deliver a more robust carbon price at EU level and drive vital investment.”
A coalition of European renewable energy associations has also urged the council to embrace renewable energy to reduce exposure to “volatile fossil fuel prices and insecure fossil fuel imports, especially in these days of geopolitical turmoil at our borders”.
Meanwhile, the UK government has been warned that it may face a backlash from angry residents of flood-hit areas if it does not take firm action on climate change.
According to a poll of four affected communities – Somerset, West London, Cornwall and Oxfordshire – published on Thursday, 43% of voters say they would now be more likely to back a party committed to climate action.
“The EU summit is [prime minister David] Cameron’s first test to prove he’s learned the lessons from the floods and is taking climate security seriously”, commented Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven.
“There’s a whole new constituency of people, including many in Cameron’s own county, who have experienced the brutal force of flooding for the first time. How he responds to the risks of climate change is becoming a major political issue which the prime minister will duck at his peril.”