* Targets under discussion lower than previous EU pledges
* Sends signal ahead of U.N. climate talks
* Member states split over different energy priorities
(Adds quote from E.ON CEO)
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Jan 14 The European Commission is
considering setting a goal to cut EU carbon emissions by 35 or
40 percent by 2030, a target that would mark a watering down of
its earlier ambitions following strong industry pressure.
The decision is due to be unveiled on Jan. 22, when the
Commission, the EU's executive, will set out its climate and
energy policy for the next two decades, updating the 2020
targets that have been the benchmark since 2007.
Once the Commission has laid out its thinking, negotiations
will take place with EU member states and the European
Parliament, but it could be years before the targets are law.
Ahead of the Jan. 22 announcement, intense discussion has
taken place among commissioners and other policymakers.
While some insist that the European Union should set a goal
of 40 percent or more, bolstering its position as a global
leader on climate policy, others say more realistic targets
incorporating industry needs should be set.
Documents reviewed by Reuters show that 35 percent is the
dominant figure, with the 40 percent in brackets alongside,
meaning it remains a possibility.
"The fight will be to get the 40 percent," said one senior
official close to the discussions, suggesting that the current
thinking leans towards the lower target.
While heavy industry favours a lower goal, many utilities
want a strong carbon target to help drive a shift from coal.
"Green growth and a transition towards a low-carbon economy
can only succeed with a greenhouse gas reduction target of a
minimum of 40 percent," Johannes Teyssen, CEO of German utility
E.ON, told Reuters.
According to EU research, 40 percent is the minimum that
carbon in the atmosphere must be cut from 1990 levels to limit
global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Unless the rise in temperatures is contained, scientists say
the planet will suffer more extreme climate events such as
floods and droughts.
At the same time, environmentalists say the 40 percent
figure is out of date since it assumes that emissions will peak
in 2015. That is now not expected to be the case, meaning a
larger-than-40-percent cut is required.
Depending on what level of carbon cut is agreed, the
Commission will also indicate the proportion of EU energy that
should come from renewable sources, but this is not expected to
be binding on individual member states.
If the Commission decides on 35 percent, then the renewables
target would be 24.7 percent. A 40 percent carbon target would
imply a renewables goal of 27.7 percent. Both of those levels
are below the aim of 30 percent muted last year.
Germany, now in the process of transforming its energy mix
from nuclear power to renewables such as wind and solar, is
adamant that a binding target must be set for each EU state.
But other nations, notably Britain, which is investing in
emissions-free nuclear energy, is opposed to another green
energy target. Like the utilities, it says it wants just one
carbon-cutting goal, which it says should be up to 50 percent.
Poland, which is heavily dependent on coal, is opposed to
any agreement on new targets until a global agreement on a
successor to the Kyoto Protocol on tackling climate change has
been reached. Those discussions will take place next year.
The EU's 2020 targets - which were held up as the
gold-standard for the world - called for three goals: 20 percent
of energy from renewable sources, a 20 percent cut in emissions
versus 1990 and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency.
The European Union is expected to meet or exceed the 2020
emissions-cutting and renewable goals, both of which are legally
It is predicted to fall short of the efficiency target,
which is not binding, and the Commission says it is too soon to
debate a new energy savings goal.
(Editing by Luke Baker/Mark Heinrich)