Friday

6th Dec 2019

Estonia's last chance to land green energy results

  • Solar panels in Germany, where such 'solar farms' are a common sight (Photo: Andreas Gücklhorn)

EU energy ministers meet on Monday (18 December) to find a common position on no less than four different legislative files that are part of the 'Energy Union' package, proposed by the commission thirteen months ago.

They will discuss targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and two legal acts governing the electricity market at the final ministerial meeting in the Council of the EU in Brussels of the year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Once the ministers have their common positions, they have to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the final version of the bills.

Briefing journalists last week, a senior Estonian official said on condition of anonymity they were "four very complex files", which each contain "two or three" politically-sensitive angles.

"To manage it all in a one day debate is really going to be a challenge," the Estonian said – Estonia as the outgoing holder of the six-month EU presidency, will chair the meeting. Bulgaria takes over the six-month rotating slot in January.

But he added it would also force ministers to focus on what is really important.

One key issue are the details around increasing the share of energy from renewable sources.

EU leaders agreed at a summit in October 2014 that by 2030, at least 27 percent of the EU's energy should be renewable, derived from for example solar panels or wind turbines.

The leaders decided that the target would be "binding on an EU level", but decided against national binding targets.

(Photo: European Union)

Some fear that this lack of national goals will lead to freeriders.

"What do we do to prevent a certain number of governments to pledge so low that others have to deliver more, or that in overall we are not able to deliver our binding renewable target?", said Green MEP Claude Turmes at a meeting with journalists recently.

Turmes, a Luxembourgian, is following one of the energy files for the parliament.

The interaction between the various proposed bills is complicated, with the renewable energy targets in one bill, but reporting and monitoring of the progress in another.

All of it is related to the 2015 climate agreement achieved in Paris, which aims at limiting potentially destructive climate change.

EU leaders said at their summit last week that they "strongly" reaffirmed the EU's commitment to 'Paris', and that they were committed to adopt the pending legislative proposals.

But according to environmentalist lobby group WWF, what is currently on the table is not enough to reach those Paris goals.

"To bring Europe in line with the Paris Agreement, the EU needs a 45% renewables target with binding national targets for 2030," WWF said on Friday.

Targets or milestones?

The EU's previous climate targets, for 2020, included nationally-binding renewable energy targets for each member state.

But national targets are politically not feasible, according to a second Estonian diplomat.

Referring to a proposed compromise text, he said that Estonia planned to introduce 'milestones'.

"If these milestones are not met by the EU we have provisions to go after the member states. These provisions are not that specific that it would bring back the binding national targets, because we can't do that," he admitted.

Missing the milestones could then lead to peer pressure, but it was unclear how binding these milestones were.

The diplomat said he didn't want to "go there", saying he was "not allowed to use these words, binding, non-binding".

Politically, the Estonians are likely to want to achieve a deal before the end of their six-month EU presidency.

They were unable to bridge the divides between the council and EU parliament in another climate file, discussed last week.

That legislative proposal dealt with greenhouse gas reduction targets for sectors like agriculture, buildings, and transport.

"Despite constructive preparations with the Estonian EU presidency and 10 hours of talks, we failed to reach an agreement," said Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy last week.

"The parliament's and council's positions remained too far removed from each other."

Monday's ministerial meeting will start at 9:30am and, in a signal that talks could be lengthy, the press conference is announced for merely "at the end of the meeting".

Sinkevičius pledges to 'listen' to climate protests

Lithuania's commissioner-designate, Virginijus Sinkevičius, unveiled during his three-hour hearing on Thursday a package of proposals to protect the environment - from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky.

Analysis

The controversy behind the Energy Charter Treaty reforms

Experts from several organisations say that reform of the Energy Charter Treaty, proposed by the EU Commission, will make it difficult to meet the targets agreed in the Paris Agreement - making it an obstacle to the clean-energy transition.

Planned German coal exit boosts case for Nord Stream 2

German commission recommends phasing out coal power over the next 19 years - which will provide additional arguments to build the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which both the European Commission and the US have reservations about.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  2. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  3. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  4. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  5. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  6. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate
  7. Development to fuel change
  8. Does EU have role in stopping backsliding in Georgia?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us