Thursday

8th Dec 2022

EU lawmakers call for stronger renewables targets

  • Environmentalist warn the majority of forests will remain eligible for biomass subsidies (Photo: CIFOR)
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Lawmakers from the industry committee in the European Parliament have voted to increase some of the EU's updated renewable energy directive targets.

The share of renewable energy should be increased to 45 percent in 2030, up from the 40 percent the EU Commission proposed previously.

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"We achieved a milestone for the energy transition," the European People's Party (EPP) MEP, Markus Pieper, who leads the file on renewables, said in a press conference on Wednesday (13 July).

"We managed to get everybody behind the higher goal, from rightwing to leftwing," he said.

In a separate vote, the committee agreed member states should ensure energy savings of at least 40 percent of the final energy consumption by 2030.

"We are in a crisis where [Russian president Vladimir] Putin is shutting off gas to the EU," Socialist & Democrat MEP Niels Fuglsang said. "Therefore, it is crucial that the committee today voted for high and binding energy efficiency targets", he added.

Transport has to reduce CO2 emissions by 16 percent by 2030.

Industry has to replace 50 percent of its fossil fuels with so-called green hydrogen, which is produced using wind or solar.

Fossil hydrogen

Pieper, in recent months, has used his influence as head of the renewables file to advocate for the inclusion of hydrogen produced with gas — so-called blue hydrogen — as a renewable energy source.

Blue hydrogen has seen heavy lobbying by Hydrogen4EU, an influential lobby group funded by Shell, BP, Exxon and Total.

But scientists have warned fossil hydrogen is more polluting than gas, and it has not made it to the final version.

However, on Wednesday, in a separate statement criticising the compromise, Pieper reiterated fossil hydrogen should be added to the renewables mix "in case the green hydrogen target is missed."

"In my opinion, low carbon quotas in [the renewables directive] would also have made sense," he said and suggested the item be taken up by others working on the EU's gas and hydrogen strategy in the future.

Burning wood

The amended RED also aims to end support for unsustainable wood burning in electricity-only plants.

The burning of palm oil and soy as biofuel may no longer be counted as renewable energy once the directive comes into force.

The directive also excludes some wood burning from subsidies. But this is limited to "veneer & saw logs, stumps & roots," environmentalists from Birdlife International, a network of NGOs, said, leaving the majority of forests eligible for biomass subsidies.

A guideline to ensure the sustainable use of biofuels in the EU has also been scrapped by a proposal for separate bilateral agreements between the EU and its member states.

The proposal will be voted on by all lawmakers in September.

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

MEPs tighten deforestation rules, covering banks

MEPs in the environment committee have backed a wider scope and stricter rules to reduce global deforestation driven by the European consumption of certain commodities — pushing for more ambition in a key EU climate law.

MEPs agree higher renewables targets, energy-savings

The European Parliament agreed on higher renewable and energy-saving targets for energy consumption in the EU — amid an energy crisis which has prompted the EU to put forward unprecedented measures to curb high energy prices.

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