The Clean Energy Package
June 30, 2017
By Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy, WWF European Policy Office
IMAGE: WWF EU
Earlier this year, European shoppers looking for courgettes got a nasty shock when they were confronted with empty shelves for weeks on end.
Bad weather in southern Europe had spoiled the courgette crop, impacting the harvest.
It is only one very minor way climate change and its impacts are now beginning to impact even relatively wealthy and sheltered Europe.
For those in other more vulnerable regions, the effects are far more serious, with unpredictable weather, rising water levels and increase in disease caused by a warming earth making their lives and livelihoods even more precarious.
Sustainable development at home and abroad, and fighting climate change, are intrinsically linked. If we can stabilise global temperature rise as agreed in Paris - to well under 2°C and far better, 1.5°C - by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, there will be more and safer food, water and living conditions for everyone, everywhere.
In the EU, the amount and speed at which we will reduce our emissions up to 2030 is currently being decided by the Member States and European Parliament. The “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package is a huge compendium of proposals, launched last November, which brings together issues from energy efficiency to renewables, use of forests, and targets and how they will be enforced.
At the moment, these files are progressing separately through the EU negotiation process. Two other key emissions reduction files - the Emissions Trading System reform (which covers power sector and industry) and its sister legislation, the Effort-Sharing Regulation (which covers all the non-ETS sectors like agriculture and transport) are also being reviewed.
The unambitious final position of Member States on the first clean energy files to reach the agreement stage - the two directives concerning energy savings - does not bode well. The energy efficiency directive revision was a major source of wrangling between Member States at the end of June. For WWF, the eventual agreement on a 30% energy efficiency target for 2030 and the loopholes added to the 1.5% annual energy savings requirement on Member States, along with the limp Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) revision, are a step backwards for the climate and the green economy.
This kind of watering down of what was already an unambitious proposal from the European Commission is going to cost the EU - and the planet - dearly in terms of missed job opportunities, savings, health benefits and of course, carbon emissions - as the infographic shows. It will also cost the EU in terms of its climate clout, at a time when global leadership on climate is shifting.
IMAGE: WWF EU
It is essential that those involved in the negotiations between Member States and the European Parliament on the other clean energy files spend the next few months fighting vocally to make the EU’s 2030 climate and energy laws as good for people and planet as possible.
First of all, they must ensure countries make good and strong long-term climate strategies, taking us to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, which they can base shorter term emissions reduction plans on. This is the best way to reassure investors and business that emissions will still go down long-term so green and clean technologies are a good bet.
IMAGE: WWF EU
The EU should provide guidance on how to build good national 2050 climate plans - the ones produced by Member States in 2015 were assessed by WWF’s MaxiMiseR project, and the results show lots of improvements can be made. Indeed, due to this lack of EU guidance on 2050 climate plans, MaxiMiseR came up with its own recommendations.
IMAGE: WWF EU
On renewable energy, Member States and MEPs must support more than the 27% business as usual target suggested. They must tighten the rules over what counts as ‘bioenergy’ - burning trees which have captured and stored carbon is not sustainable and should not count as a renewable source.
They must also suggest ways to ensure a 2030 renewables target is met if there are no binding national targets. As long as power markets favour incumbents over renewables, these clean technologies should have guaranteed access and priority dispatch to the electricity grid. Payments to generators to keep capacity available must only be used when absolutely necessary and must not be abused to extend the use of coal power.
The only way we can get to net zero emissions by 2050 is by speeding up the end of coal in Europe. Although coal emissions are falling, they need to do so at least three times faster than now. At the moment the EU has more power generation capacity than it needs. This is a huge opportunity to plan the switch off of the dirtiest plants. Without such a programme of ‘smart retirement’ there will simply not be enough space in the power system to accommodate the renewables and efficiency that the EU has agreed to deliver.
At the same time, we must gradually reduce the amount of emissions allowances given for free to polluters via the EU’s carbon market. We must permanently remove the millions of surplus allowances, which are keeping the carbon price down and making it cheap to pollute, as well as tighten rules that govern emissions reductions from non-ETS sectors like transport, buildings and agriculture.
IMAGE: WWF EU
Of course, such a radical change as moving to net zero emissions by 2050, even if we are already seeing a shift towards renewables, can cause some upheaval. This is why the revenues from auctioned ETS allowances should go to make the transition happen in a way that is just and helps support former mining communities and others who could be impacted by the switch.
If the EU can pull its weight in terms of 2030 legislation it will bring real benefits for Europe’s future as for our planet.
Summer break or not, our eyes are fixed on the EU Parliament and Member States. The coming months will be critical in shaping our future - both in terms of climate and energy and of sustainable development in Europe and beyond.
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