Climate change activists in Brussels are furious this week after a key committee in the European Parliament approved a new renewable energy regime for the bloc after 2020. The committee backed a new approach, first put forward by the EU’s executive branch in 2014, that will relieve the renewables burden on EU countries.
Alex Mason with the campaign group WWF called the new regime “toothless”. Claude Turmes, a Green member of the parliament, said it means the EU will be less likely to reach the goals the bloc signed up to in the Paris Agreement. They say this new regime will let national governments off the hook, because it doesn't contain binding national targets for a share of renewables in their energy mix.
So why is the EU abandoning the binding approach? It may be a question of target fatigue.
Back in 2008, before the EU entered a period of crisis around both its currency and legitimacy, hard climate targets were all the rage. The EU adopted a “20-20-20” climate package that mandated a 20% emissions reduction from 1990 levels, a 20% share of rewables in the EU’s energy mix, and a 20% increase in energy efficiency - all by 2020. Each country has binding emissions and renewable targets to meet, based on its capacity.
It had symmetry, if not always logic. The efficiency target, for instance, was long viewed as impractical, and it is now clear the EU will not meet it. The other two targets, however, are on track.
When it came time in 2014 for the European Commission to set new targets for after 2020, however, it decided to change strategy. The emissions reduction strategy will remain roughly the same - each country will have binding national targets to meet the EU’s overall 40% reduction by 2030.
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