UPDATE 2-European Commission outlines 2030 green energy goals

Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:35pm EDT

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By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, March 12 (Reuters) - The European Commission has outlined new targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and using more green energy by 2030, according to a policy paper seen by Reuters.

The paper reflects industry demands that climate goals have to take account of the economic crisis but still presses for an economy that produces less carbon and is less dependent on expensive fossil fuel imports.

The 27-member bloc has sought to take the helm of the international fight against climate change, with more ambitious carbon-cutting goals than the rest of the world.

So far it has a set of three 2020 green energy and climate policy targets, which both green campaigners and industry, keen for investment guidance, say need updating.

The new paper puts forward the idea of a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions versus 1990 levels and a goal that renewables will supply 30 percent of all energy needs, both by 2030. It stops short of any number for a new energy savings target.

That compares with three 2020 policy goals to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent, increase renewables to 20 percent and improve energy savings by 20 percent.

The paper states there is "broad consensus" that new targets are needed and that the crux of the matter is to decide on the appropriate level, taking into account economic crisis and the level of climate commitment beyond Europe.

A 40 percent cut in emissions, it says, strikes the balance between upfront investment and long-term cost.

"A reduction of less than 40 percent would increase the costs of decarbonising the economy over the longer term," it says.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY

Environmental campaigners say the Commission is missing an opportunity for more ambitious targets that would kick-start the economy by saving on fossil fuel imports, creating jobs in the renewable sector and preventing the problem of a much bigger emissions-cutting task later.

"It's to help the economy, not in spite of the economy," Friends of the Earth campaigner Brook Riley said.

"On the one hand, they are looking beyond 2020 and they are talking about numbers. For sure that's a good thing," he added. "But the level of ambition is dangerously inadequate."

Officials of industrial lobbies could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Commission does not comment on unpublished drafts, but Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has said he supports the idea of a new renewables goal and a carbon target, unlike some in industry who say that just an emissions goal would be enough.

He has said, however, it is too soon to set another new energy savings goal, given that the debate was only reopened last year with a new Energy Efficiency Directive to try to get the bloc closer to achieving its current 20 percent target.

Roughly speaking, the European Union is on track to meet the other two 2020 goals.

Last month, the Commission held a 2030 debate. Public comment will be invited after formal publication of the policy paper, expected this month, pending legislative proposals.

The provisional targets are already hinted at in road maps drawn up to guide policy until the law can be agreed.

The low-carbon road maps to 2050 note that by the middle of the century the European Union needs to cut its emissions by 80 to 95 percent from 1990 levels to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the level scientists say would fend off the most devastating effects.

The 40 percent 2030 goal would be a staging post towards the bottom end of the 80-95 percent cut, Tom Brookes, a director at climate think-tank the European Climate Foundation said.

"Higher ambition now can put us on track towards a 95 percent reduction, which science tells us is necessary, while also incentivising use of Europe's indigenous energy resources," he said.

The European Union, which the Commission holds responsible for only around 11 percent of global emissions, has sought to lead international efforts on climate change.

But the failure to get nations beyond Europe to agree to carbon-cutting goals has led some EU member states to argue the bloc is at a competitive disadvantage.

Poland, heavily dependent on carbon-intensive coal has rejected attempts to make EU climate targets more stringent.

Warsaw will host the next U.N. climate summit at the end of the year to try to build on flimsy progress in Doha in 2012, when scientists warned the chances of preventing the worst effects of climate change were receding. (Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London,; editing by Rex Merrifield and James Jukwey)

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