The European commission is expected to drop plans for binding targets on renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions on Wednesday, after a number of states – including the UK – voiced opposition to such measures.
The EU is likely to set a carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction goal of 35% or 40% compared to 1990 levels, which campaigners have argued is too low to avoid the worst effects of climate change. There is already a 20% target in place for 2020.
However, countries are expected to disagree on mandatory national targets for renewable energy production. The European parliament would like to see a 30% goal for renewables but the figure is likely to be much lower and it is not clear whether it will be binding for individual countries.
President of the commission José Manuel Barroso should decide to water down the mandatory goals, according to Green politicians in Europe.
Claude Turmes, vice-chair of the Green Group of MEPs, said, “This cynical intervention by Barroso to drastically scale back EU climate and energy policy at the behest of UK prime minister [David] Cameron smacks of political desperation.
“Failure to include a binding renewable energy target would completely undo the indisputable success of the existing 2020 target in driving forward renewable energy. It is a sop to those countries like the UK that want to pursue risky or dirty energy from nuclear, coal and shale gas, and will totally undermine investor certainty.”
While some member states like Germany, Denmark, Austria, Belgium and Italy lobbied for a strong renewable target to reassure investors, other nations, including the UK, Spain and Poland, have strongly opposed the measure, saying it would drive energy bills up.
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said, “It makes no sense to impose artificial constraints on how individual countries meet emissions targets.
“We are determined to keep people’s energy bills as low as possible and that means having the flexibility to cut emissions in the most cost effective way.”
Meanwhile Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI, said that a clear framework was vital for business.
“We need long-term certainty to drive investment in a secure, low-carbon and affordable energy future for Europe”, she said.
“We want to see an ambitious but credible emissions reduction target of 40% across the EU, underpinned by an effective emissions trading system. This overarching target has to be the priority, allowing member states the flexibility to decarbonise in the most cost-effective way.”
The European commission is also expected to review carbon trading rules and outline EU-wide regulation over health and environmental issues related to shale gas.