Ministers mute on national RE targets

National renewable targets barely featured as EU environment ministers discussed climate and energy policy today, ahead of a similar meeting by the Union’s energy ministers tomorrow.

At discussions of the European Commission’s (EC’s) Climate and Energy Package, there seemed to be a general consensus over a 40% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030 – although Poland referred to the level of the target as “an open issue” on which it is not yet able to take a position.

The Czech Republic only supported a 35% GHG reduction target in the absence of a global agreement.

The energy elements of the Commission’s proposals are to be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting of energy ministers.

However, most of Europe’s environment ministers unveiled their government’s position on the proposed EU-level 27% renewable energy target. And there was little sign at today’s meeting of what European renewables bodies had hoped for – namely a serious pushback against proposals by the EC that national governments should not be legally bound by member state-level renewable energy targets.

Germany and Denmark supported a 30% renewable energy target and targets on energy efficiency. Portugal supported a 40 % binding renewables target and a 30% efficiency target as well as a 25% target for interconnections.

Luxembourg pointed out that the 27% renewable energy target merely reflects business as usual. “A more ambitious objective of at least 30% is advisable,” the Luxembourg minister said.

Both France and the UK supported the EU-level target for renewables, with the UK stressing its opposition to binding national renewables targets.

We have previously raised concerns about a renewable energy target,” UK secretary of state for energy & climate change Ed Davey said.

“Today I can say that we have moved. The UK is ready to support a binding renewable energy target of 27%, so long as it can never become binding on individual member states or be translated into national targets by EU level action,” he told his colleagues, most of whom shied away from taking a position on national targets for renewables.

The East-West divide on the approach to renewables and timing of decisions was apparent at today’s Environment Council.

While many eastern countries want to postpone decisions, western countries want the Heads of State to make decisions, at least on the overall targets, at their meeting later in March. Denmark stressed the importance of making such an early decision on all targets simultaneously, including for efficiency and renewables.

An overall consensus seems to be gathering on 40% GHG reductions and a binding EU-level renewables target of 27% to 30%.

But many Member States appeared perplexed and confused about the European Commission’s proposed governance structure. France expressed its concern that the governance structure would confer additional powers over energy policy from national governments to the European Commission.

Energy ministers meet tomorrow for a similar exchange of views, which is likely to result in little additional information.

The question in the short term is whether the Heads of State meeting will confine itself to a general debate when they meet later in March, or make decisions on the overall targets.

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