European Commission President Jose Barroso told a press conference last night that other nations must “step up to the plate,” as the European Union reached a deal among its 28 member states to deliver the most-ambitious carbon emissions goals of any major economy.
Hard fought compromises were won to seal the deal late on Thursday night. Despite speculation to the contrary, France, Portugal and Spain reached a compromise to build more interconnections across the Pyrenees while the UK and Germany bridged their divide over an energy efficiency goal.
The bloc’s members endorsed a binding target to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030 at the summit in Brussels. Meeting that goal would cost about 38 billion euros ($48 billion) a year, according to EU estimates. The EU is on track to meet its previous goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020.
Through reaching agreement the EU copperfastened its leadership in the fight against global warming ahead of a UN climate summit in Peru in December, an important milestone before the grander summit in Paris next year.
“Many said it was the wrong thing to do at the wrong moment, today we have proved those doubters wrong,” European Commission President Jose Barroso said at a press conference while French President Francois Hollande told reporters, “Like all good accords, this is a compromise. Not all countries are in the same situation, and this agreement is expensive for some countries.”
Poland, which had threatened the use of veto to protect its coal-fired power industry and increase in power prices won assurances that its utilities will get free carbon permits under the EU emissions trading system, or ETS, after 2020 and that the country will have access to funds for modernizing coal-based plants.
EU leaders agreed to give member states whose gross domestic product per capita doesn’t exceed 60 percent of the EU average an option of getting free permits for utilities up to 2030. After 2020 the number of free permits will be capped at 40 percent of the allocation for auctioning based on verified emissions. That will guarantee electricity prices in Poland won’t increase, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said after the summit.
Other important decisions reached include the confirmation of indicative goal to increase energy efficiency by at least 27 per cent by 2030 and a target to boost the share of renewable energy by at least 27 per cent, binding at EU level but not to be translated into objectives for individual member states.
Driven by recent difficulties associated with the Ukraine –Russia conflict, the EU also passed legislation on an energy security strategy.
A general plan was agreed to diversify energy-supply sources and cut the region’s dependence on fossil fuels – aimed specifically at reducing the influence of Russian gas on European power generation.
Another positive to emerge was the decision by France and the Iberian countries to develop better interconnection, as part of an overall deal for the entire bloc of increasing interconnectivity to a target of 15 per cent from a previous target of 10 per cent.
It represented a real breakthrough as the Iberian nations had complained bitterly about French intransigence in enabling connections with suspicion that the country’s nuclear utilities were protecting its interests from excess wind power coming over the Pyrenees.
Concerns in Britain and some smaller states about additional EU regulation that threatened a new expansion of emissions-free but controversial nuclear power, saw targets for increased use of renewable energy and for energy efficiency softened.
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