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19th Jan 2019

EU leaders reach 2030 deal on climate and energy

  • Kopacz (r) after her first EU summit: 'I'm tired. I can hardly speak because I have spent so many hours talking and talking' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders agreed a new climate and energy deal for the next decade and a half in Brussels at around 1am local time on Friday (24 October).

The accord includes four targets for 2030: on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; on the share of renewables in the EU's “energy mix”; on energy savings; and on the EU's energy infrastructure.

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Greenhouse gas emissions are to go down by “at least 40 percent” by 2030, EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy told press.

“About half” of the reduction will be achieved via the current Emissions Trading System (ETS), which puts a price on polluting by auctioning emissions allowances.

The other half is to be achieved by new measures in sectors not yet covered by the ETS, “like transport, agriculture and buildings”.

The reduction target for these sectors will be “national, yet tradeable”, Van Rompuy said, adding that the new system will be modelled on the cap-and-trade ETS regime.

“In order to reach its own target, a country, for instance Denmark, which already has double glazing everywhere, can decide instead of going for triple glazing, rather to help finance a double glazing project elsewhere in Europe. That way it can get more emissions savings value for its money”, he explained.

This will “allow individual countries to do less, but then they’ll have to compensate in other areas”, German chancellor Angela Merkel said in her press briefing.

Merkel added that “a lot could happen” between now and 2030 “so you can’t say now what should be a binding target for each and every country down to the last digit, but the overall 40 percent target is binding [on the EU].”

The second target is that at least 27 percent of the EU's energy consumption in 2030 should come from a renewable source.

This target is also “binding on an EU level”.

The third target is to increase the EU's energy efficiency by “at least 27 percent”.

This goal is “indicative”. The European Commission had proposed 30 percent, but after several member states called for 25 percent, a compromise was made.

The fourth target is that by 2030 the bloc should have “electricity interconnection worth 15 percent” of installed capacity.

Van Rompuy noted: “This means that for each 100 megawatts it produces, a member state should have the infrastructure to be able to import or export 15 megawatts to neighbouring countries.”

The negotiations were “not easy, not at all”, he said.

Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz, who attended her first EU summit and who had threatened to veto a deal if Polish demands were not met, echoed the EU Council chief.

“It was hard, some people, even two or three hours ago, were telling us that we're asking for too much”, she said.

She added that her voice was hoarse from the marathon talks.

She claimed that Poland got what it wanted, however: “I came here saying we would not leave with any extra burdens, and we are not leaving with any extra burdens”.

Poland is dependent on greenhouse gas-emitting coal for 92 percent of its electricity and 55 percent of its total energy.

But the poorer EU countries received additional emissions permits to hand out to their energy companies.

Paris review clause

The EU agreement - the so-called climate and energy framework - is to be reviewed after an international summit on climate change in Paris in 2015.

This means that, in theory, the European Council can change the targets if they are not matched by non-European countries.

This review clause was “asked for by some of our member states”, Van Rompuy said.

Several eastern and central European countries feared that if the EU set too ambitious targets, while other nations like China or the US, slack, it could harm their competitiveness.

Van Rompuy denied that the review clause would “water down the objectives” and called the final deal “ambitious, yet cost-effective”.

“This agreement keeps Europe in the driver's seat [on the fight against global warming]”, outgoing European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso added.

Environmental NGO's quickly voiced disappointment with the deal, however.

Greenpeace said in a press release the targets are “too low, slowing down efforts to boost renewable energy and keeping Europe hooked on polluting and expensive fuels”.

Separately, Friends of the Earth said: “To describe 40 percent emissions cuts as adequate or ambitious, as EU leaders are doing, is dangerously irresponsible”.

"Insufficient action like this from the world's richest countries places yet more burden on the poorest people most affected by climate change, but least responsible for causing this crisis", Oxfam added.

What are the EU climate talks about?

With climate targets only set at the EU level, the key question is how member states will be persuaded to do their share.

UN welcomes EU climate deal

The climate agreement “opens the door to greater ambition by all countries”, the head of UN body on climate change said.

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