Speak Up Energy

Member states’ positions on proposals designed to cut EU CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 continue to diverge significantly as the EU enters into what could be one of the busiest and potentially divisive negotiation periods in its history. Environment ministers from the 27 EU member states met in Luxembourg yesterday (5 June) to debate the Commission’s package of climate and energy proposals.

Discussions focused in particular on how member states, who differ significantly in terms of economic development, will share the 20% CO2 reduction target.Seven of the EU’s newer member states, led by Hungary, are calling for a rethink of how each country’s individual CO2 reduction target is calculated, with the baseline year used to calculate the necessary reductions a key point of contention. The Commission has proposed using 2005 instead of 1990 for technical reasons related to data availability. But the group of seven stresses that, by choosing 2005 as the reference year for the basis of its calculations, the Commission is favouring the richer older members of the EU over the Eastern newcomers.

Instead, they argue that the cuts they achieved since 1990 as a result of post-communist de-industrialisation should be better reflected in their national targets. They point out that, by 2005, Eastern states had already cut their emissions by 7.9%, and argue that the 2005 reference date is unfair.

Ministers also touched on the issue of renewable energy and biofuels promotion, but these issues are scheduled to receive more attention today (6 June) from EU Energy ministers, who are meeting primarily to give their views on controversial Commission plans to further liberalise the EU’s energy market.

Germany started the discussion by emphasising that the EU’s international credibility in ongoing international climate change negotiations is at stake in the coming months. “Things are getting serious,” said Sigmar Gabriel, the country’s environment minister. “Any lazy compromise” will be watched closely by the international community, he said.

Gabriel rejected the proposal made by Hungary and the six other newer EU member states, saying this would give some member states a CO2 reduction target for 2020 that is below their 2012 target. But the minister acknowledged that the issue is a “mirror” of the disagreements between rich and poor nations in international climate talks.

Richer and poorer EU member states must “look deep into each others eyes” so that the conflict can be managed “fairly”, he said, adding that the EU is an “experiment”. If the EU does not succeed in resolving the issue, “nobody will follow”, he said.

Poland‘s Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki backed Hungary’s proposal, and warned that if the EU ETS regime beyond 2012 is too tight, electricity prices in Poland would increase 117% and “destroy Polish industry”.

The country is therefore calling for the power sector to be treated like other industrial sector under the revised EU ETS, meaning that it should continue to receive free emissions permits, with full auctioning implemented only gradually after 2013, rather than 100% auctioning as is being proposed by the Commission.

This proposal was backed by the Czech Republic, which also called for auctioning exemptions for small scale power installations.
Sweden raised some eyebrows with a proposal to allow member states that achieve their interim emissions reduction targets to sell any excess CO2 reductions to member states that are falling behind. Despite being among the wealthier EU member states,
Luxembourg warned that its CO2 reduction obligations are “more than we can achieve,” said Environment Minister Lucien Lux.

The country is particularly concerned about its transport emissions, which account for a much higher share of the country’s non-industrial CO2 emissions compared to other member states due to the large volume of vehicles that transit the small country.

From EurActiv

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  1. The clash betweeen member states on the reduction targets demonstrates the difficulty of coming to terms on the basis of an approach based on C02 reductions. The Commission has rightly put all member states on an equal footing. It has rightly provided for a linear annual reduction applicable to all member states as of 2013. It was right in imposing auctioning for the power sector as of 2013. Of course, Poland is hard hit because of its strong reliance on coal. But it has faild to take climate change seriously since EU membership. Neither Poland nor the other new member states should be given credit for the decrease of C02 emissions between 1990 and 2003. These were “windfall profits” resulting from ending the most outrageous system of energy waste and inefficiency on earth.
    As a way out, the Commission should propose focusing the 2014-20 regional aids on raising energy efficiency and encouraging the use of renewable energies

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