EU ministers agree on laws to save energy, promote renewables

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  • Ministers meet to seek deals on package of climate laws
  • Moves to weaken some measures as energy shock bites
  • Ministers discuss plans to reduce gas demand
  • EU contingency planning for further Russian gas cuts

LUXEMBOURG, June 27 (Reuters) - EU energy ministers agreed on Monday on laws to save energy and promote renewables, part of a package of reforms proposed by Brussels to fight climate change by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions this decade.

More details of the climate change proposals will be discussed at further talks on Tuesday, with some diplomats concerned that proposals such as a ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2035 could ultimately be watered down.

EU energy ministers were also due to use the previously scheduled talks to discuss options to collectively reduce short-term gas demand, to cope with possible further cuts from Russia. The European Commission is preparing to present a plan next month to coordinate steps to prepare for further supply cuts amid the war in Ukraine.

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"For industry we have to present a coordinated approach," EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said ahead of the talks, referring to measures to curb gas demand, adding that citizens would be "protected consumers" shielded from such curbs.

The ministers are trying to agree common positions on proposed laws to meet a 2030 target to cut net emissions by 55% from 1990 levels, with the global energy supply crunch making some countries more wary of potential disruption from reforms.

They backed targets proposed by Brussels last year to derive 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 - up from 22% in 2020 - and cut energy consumption 9% against expected levels.

Brussels proposed even higher targets last month, which the ministers are expected to review later this year when they negotiate the final laws with the EU parliament.

In one notable weakening of the proposals, a 2030 target to reduce primary energy consumption was made voluntary, rather than legally binding, at the request of Spain. But countries also backed tighter rules proposed by Germany to ensure each member state contributes to another binding target to curb final EU energy consumption.

Brussels says the energy supply crisis this year caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine means the 27 EU countries should move even faster to wean themselves off of fossil fuels.

But the threat of an economic slump from surging energy prices has made some countries more cautious about changes that would affect domestic industries.

Countries are split over proposals to be discussed on Tuesday on a new scheme to impose CO2 costs on polluting transport and heating fuels, and an effective EU ban on sales of new fossil fuel cars from 2035, according to draft negotiation documents and diplomats. read more

Some diplomats warned that moves to delay or weaken some proposals, if approved, would cause the EU to miss its climate goals. Others said they expected countries to preserve the core elements needed to meet emissions targets - and some concessions could help win majority support.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Peter Graff and Jason Neely

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