9th Aug 2022

Brussels to unveil EU green strategy amid strong criticism

  • Biofuels are supposed to account for 10 percent of transport needs by 2020 (Photo: European Community, 2006)

The European Commission is set to table on Wednesday (23 January) a highly controversial set of legislative proposals designed to fight global warming and the EU's dependence on imported energy.

The package has already attracted a lot of attention and criticism, as it will extensively shape future energy and industrial policies in all 27 EU member states.

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As part of the proposals, each country will face a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and a mandatory target for the share of renewable energy in its total energy consumption.

In addition, the commission will overhaul the emissions trading scheme - a cap and trade system designed to curb pollution from industry - as well as the bloc's current state aid rules for funding green projects.

Lastly, it will also propose a law on carbon capture and storage, a method that involves the storing underground of carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

The Brussels-made green strategy comes ten months after EU leaders outlined at their summit in March two new legally-binding targets - to reduce CO2 emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels and to have renewable sources account for 20 percent of energy production by 2020.

However, industry, along with a number of governments - mainly Berlin, Madrid and Paris - have intensively lobbied against having green rules that are too strict. They fear that European industry could be disadvantaged if it has to comply with stricter conditions than its counterparts in the US or China.

CO2 emissions

The major sticking point is Brussels' aim to toughen the EU's emission trading system (ETS) - a system under which approximately 12,000 firms can buy and sell excess CO2 emissions, putting an overall ceiling on emissions levels.

While emission permits are currently distributed to industry for free, under the draft reform, they are to be auctioned. Initially in 2013, one-fifth of pollution permits is to be sold, rising annually to reach 100 percent in 2020, according to Reuters.

However, steel, aluminium and cement industries will have a special, less strict regime, Reuters reports, as the EU's executive body has responded to fears that the three energy-intensive sectors could be forced to set up their productions outside Europe because of the new legislation.

Apart from the ETS overhaul, the commission will propose how EU states should cut their greenhouse gas emissions after 2013 in order to contribute to the EU-wide goal of reducing them by 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

Richer member states are expected to carry a heavier burden under the proposals, while central and eastern European countries are to be allowed to increase their emissions by up to 20 percent from 2005 levels.

Green energy

This piece of legislation also lays out in detail how exactly to get from the current 8.5 percent to a 20 percent share of renewables in EU energy consumption by the end of the next decade.

Under the plans, all member states will face their own individual targets, which would mirror their economic potential to produce energy from sources such as wind, solar, geothermal or hydropower, based on GDP per capita.

According to Reuters, Austria will be required to produce 34 percent of power from green sources, while Germany is likely to get a 20 percent target. France will have to achieve a 23 percent goal, Sweden 50 percent and the UK 15 percent.

In case a country does not have enough potential to meet its individual target or if it finds it too costly to produce such energy in its own territory, it will be allowed to meet the criteria by purchasing renewable energy from another country within the 27-nation bloc.

EU governments will also have to ensure that biofuels account for at least 10 percent of transport needs by 2020 - however, it will have to be achieved in a sustainable way that will not endanger environment.

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