Sunday

25th Feb 2024

EU states fail to agree binding energy targets

EU states did not back European Commission calls for binding targets on renewable energy or biofuels at an economy ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday (15 February), with a long way to go before the EU has a real energy policy despite broad agreement on the direction to take.

More than 10 member states led by Sweden and Denmark were keen to sign up to a binding target of 20 percent renewable energy consumption at EU level by 2020, but the rest, including the UK and Poland, declined amid confusion on the impact of industrial reforms individual states would have to undertake to hit the EU goal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Wind power: renewable energy is proving divisive, but everybody is scared of climate change (Photo: European Community, 2005)

On the surface, the 27 EU states did agree to a binding goal of 10 percent of biofuel use at EU level by 2020. But taking a closer look at ministers' conclusions, the small print says "the binding character of this target is subject to...biofuel becoming commercially available" in what is a fledgling industry today.

Member states also fudged the question of ownership unbundling, with the commission last month campaigning that national energy champions such as Germany's E.ON or France's EDF should be broken down into smaller pieces because they stifle competition and investment.

EU capitals endorsed the general principle of "effective separation of supply and production activities." But they did not commit to any specific legal model, asking Brussels to do more homework on questions such as: would EU unbundling give the edge to predatory outside firms, such as Russia's Gazprom, in future?

Thursday's text fleshed out the EU's new energy philosophy: climate change is a clear and present danger; each country has sovereignty over which type of energy it uses; EU states must "speak with one voice" and show "solidarity" in the face of foreign supply shocks, such as January's Russia-Belarus oil crunch.

It also pinpointed stronger EU relations with gas and oil suppliers in Algeria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan and transit state Georgia as key foreign policy goals. And it backed nuclear energy as a way of driving down CO2 emissions.

The European Commission's most ambitious energy proposal - for the EU to stick its neck out with a binding, unilateral target to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 - will be discussed by environment ministers next Tuesday, with one EU diplomat saying "we are optimistic this will be agreed."

The economy and environment ministers' ideas will underpin energy talks by EU leaders in March and form part of the EU's final energy action plan in June, with the European Commission then set to propose a basket of new energy bills in autumn that should become EU law by 2010.

Little steps

"The longest journey begins with the first step - that is how we will have to progress here," German economy minister Michael Glos said, speaking for the EU presidency. "We have made a breakthrough [today]. We have adopted a draft energy plan."

"It's an area where we've never had a common policy and it's not an easy task," energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said. "We need a policy that is acceptable to everybody from Cyprus to Ireland and that is acceptable to both Germany and Poland, so it's not easy."

Commenting on the overall tone of the Thursday joint statement, Polish economy minister Piotr Wozniak said "It's not exactly written in the language of directives. It's a little bit more general and descriptive than we would have liked."

One of the most divisive issues in the EU energy sector today - Germany's plan to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline to Russia, bypassing Poland - also came up on the margins of the meeting, with Mr Glos praising the €12 billion project on EU energy security grounds but appearing to rule out any EU funding.

Weather celebrities

"There are a number of very important private companies involved in the consortium, so I don't see that they would need any [EU] help," he said, after the president of the European Investment Bank, Philippe Maystadt, declined his support for the pipeline earlier this week.

Pipelines and big international agreements are not the only tricks in the EU's energy bag, however. On Friday, 45 TV weather presenters from across Europe will come for a day-long seminar in Brussels, with commission officials set to encourage the TV crowd to talk more about climate change and CO2 on their shows in future.

"These are credible celebrities. Many of them have meteorological training and speak with a great deal of awareness on the issues, as well as being faces that people see in their living rooms every day," an EU official said. "So it's the best of both worlds."

EU countries set for scuffle over CO2 targets

The EU's desire to fight climate change will be put to the test as its 27 environment ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday to agree on common targets to reduce climate change – something member states are deeply divided over.

EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain

The €723bn Covid-19 recovery fund, launched three years ago, has been a success, according to a mid-term internal review — but less effective than initially predicted. And according to one NGO, the commission painted an "overly positive picture".

France's Le Maire 'goes German' with austerity budget

The French government announced €10bn in further spending cuts. However, defence spending is set to increase significantly, up to €413bn from €295bn, while €400m was cut from a fund meant for renovating schools, carpooling infrastructure, and other environmental projects.

Online platforms must be liable for payment scams, say MEPs

MEPs have agreed on new rules to level the playing field between banks and non-banks, and to make payments more user-friendly, cheaper and safer — including measures to make online platforms liable for payment fraud that occurs through their services.

Opinion

After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports

Two years of tragedies, with well over 100,000 Russian war crimes now registered, underscore the urgent need to stop international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Vladimir Putin's war chest.

Opinion

Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work

According to the European Commission, CBAM is supposed to prevent "carbon leakage". In other words, it seeks to prevent European industries relocating to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental policies, while also incentivising carbon pricing and industrial decarbonisation abroad.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us