EU's Barroso presses for more climate ambition

Tue Jul 3, 2012 8:15am EDT

Related Topics

* 'Green10' NGO report says Commission lagging behind

* Energy Efficiency Directive not strong enough

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, July 3 (Reuters) - The European Union needs to work harder to reach its 2020 green energy objectives, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday.

Denmark, which has just completed a six-month stint leading EU policy debate, put the environment at the heart of its presidency. And it set as a priority getting a deal on an Energy Efficiency Directive to reduce EU energy use and dependency on fossil fuel imports.

"Whilst we welcome what was achieved, we must also say that further work on reaching our 2020 objectives will be needed," Barroso told the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, summing up Denmark's EU presidency.

"The Commission estimates that the outcome reached would allow delivering approximately two-thirds of the total energy savings of the Commission's original proposal."

The original aim of the efficiency law was to get the 27 member states back on track to achieve an overall 20 percent cut in energy use, compared with projected levels.

Analysts have said the compromise agreed in June would achieve energy savings of only about 15 percent across the bloc, with a further 2 percent possible from increased efficiency in the transport sector.

Without the new Energy Efficiency Directive, the Commission has estimated the European Union would improve energy savings by only around 10 percent.

In theory the energy savings target is the only one of three main green goals for 2020 that the EU is not on course to meet, and it is the only one that is not binding.

The other two aims are to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent and to increase the share of renewable energy in the mix to 20 percent.

Although the bloc is estimated to be on course to meet the two binding goals, the weakness of one of the main policy tools for delivering them - the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - has removed incentives for investing in a low-carbon economy.

Expectations that the Commission will announce plans this month to support the ETS have helped push the price of carbon allowances above 8 euros, compared with a low of 5.99 euros in April, but they are still too cheap to justify investing in renewables, analysts say.

Ten environmental groups active on EU policy on Tuesday gave the Commission low scores in a Green10 (G10) report on its track record, half-way through its five-year term, which ends in 2014. It is the second Commission led by Barroso.

"The G10 is extremely worried about the poor track record of the Barroso II Commission. On this form, they will not meet the finishing line," Greenpeace European Unit Director Jorgo Riss said.

Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who is from Denmark, got the highest mark out of those assessed in the G10 report, earning 5.5 out of 10. The non-governmental groups praised her resolve in including airline emissions in the ETS in the face of strong opposition from non-EU governments.

Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger scored 4.5 out of 10. He had offered strong support for energy efficiency, the report said, but his proposal on the issue had been too weak. (editing by Jane Baird)

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