Thursday

21st Feb 2019

London and Prague call for 'light touch' on EU climate goals

  • London smog: The UK wants the EU to leave it to national governments how to reach energy goals for 2030 (Photo: stu mayhew)

The UK and the Czech Republic want the EU to have a “light touch” approach towards the bloc's climate and energy targets for 2030, leaving it to national governments to police themselves on achieving the goals.

They also want the EU, if necessary, to support member states that want to invest in nuclear energy or underground storage of carbon, instead of in renewable energy sources, according to a leaked document.

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In October 2014, government leaders agreed in Brussels that the EU would reduce its emission of greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

They also settled on a target of at least 27 percent share of renewable energy in 15 years time, and an increase in energy efficiency of at least 27 percent.

How individual countries would be encouraged or penalised in order to achieve these targets was not specified.

But leaders agreed that a “governance system” would be set up to make sure the EU meets its climate and energy targets.

British newspaper the Guardian on Tuesday (6 January) reported on the existence of a lobbying paper, outlining a British-Czech wishlist on how that system should look like.

The document, an informal so-called non-paper which was undated, was published Wednesday by blogger Alice Stollmeyer.

Although the UK's minister for energy and climate change Edward Davey wrote that the article in the Guardian was “factually wrong”, he indirectly affirmed the authenticity of the document by referring to it in social media messages.

The non-paper calls on the commission to come up with a proposal for the governance system that will “focus on the EU’s collective progress towards EU energy goals … rather than focussing on details of implementation at national level”.

The document asks the commission to “be light touch and non-legislative so as to respect member state flexibility over its choice of measures and technologies”.

The paper also requests that the commission support nuclear energy or carbon capture and storage (CCS) as equal alternatives to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. CCS is an experimental and controversial method of storing instead of emitting greenhouse gases.

The paper wants the commission to come forward with “a new CCS strategy for Europe as early as possible”.

While the EU has the power to co-legislate policies that combat climate change, nations still have complete sovereignty over deciding their “energy mix”.

The UK and Czech Republic are below the EU's average share of renewable energy, with 4.2 and 11.2 percent, respectively, compared to the EU's average of 14.1 percent in 2012, according to Eurostat.

Although there are environmental and safety concerns for nuclear energy, it can help reduce a nation's greenhouse gas emissions. So if the UK and the Czech Republic lower their carbon emissions via other means, for instance, by increasing their dependence on nuclear energy, Brussels will not have any basis to scold them for it.

The UK government recently received permission from the commission to subsidise the construction of a nuclear power plant, which is to account for 7 percent of the country's electricity needs.

In December, Reuters reported that the Czech Republic's centre-left government revised energy strategy included plans to boost its reliance on nuclear power.

Europe holds off on storing CO2

Most reports looking at long-term climate scenarios agree that some form of carbon capture and storage is needed. However, its deployment has been stalled in the EU.

Auditors raise alarm over air pollution in Europe

Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the Netherlands "have not taken sufficient action to improve air quality", according to a new report. In 2015, nearly 400,000 people in the EU died prematurely due to air pollution.

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