Energy commissioner Günther Oettinger insists ambitious target would damage EU economy
Efforts by the British, French and German governments to convince the EU to adopt more ambitious emissions targets for 2020 were dealt a major blow yesterday, after EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger signalled he was opposed to more ambitious cuts of 30 per cent against 1990 levels.
A number of countries have been calling on the EU to increase its current 20 per cent emissions reduction target after an analysis last year showed that the fall in emissions resulting from the recession meant it would cost significantly less than originally thought to meet the more ambitious goal.
But Oettinger last night added his voice to those industry groups that fear the 30 per cent target, and the higher carbon price that will be required to reach it will force jobs overseas to regions without binding emissions targets – a phenomenon known as carbon leakage.
The Guardian newspaper quoted Oettinger as saying the EU would jeopardise its competitiveness and see jobs from industries such as steel migrate if “we go alone to 30 per cent”.
“I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK – and industry means CO2 emissions,” he said.
He also rejected the suggestion that the cuts in emissions that have resulted from the recession over the past two years would not necessarily make it easier to meet the 30 per cent target. “[It shows] the best thing for CO2 emissions is a crisis, so do we need longer and deeper crises?” he asked. “Look at our deficit – we need growth, and we need more industry.”
The comments will come as a major blow to ministers in the UK, France, Germany and a number of Scandinavian countries, who have been arguing for the past six months that a more ambitious target would bolster the EU’s competitiveness in the booming low-carbon market and help break the deadlock that has marred international climate change negotiations.
But with the commission apparently joining a number of eastern European countries in opposing the 30 per cent goal, it looks as if the proposals will now be dropped.
Oettinger is, however, reported to be preparing more ambitious targets designed to help cut EU energy use. The bloc is broadly on target to meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 per cent and generating a fifth of its energy from renewable by the end of the decade. But it is falling short against its goal of cutting energy use 20 per cent and the commission is now preparing a new energy efficiency strategy that, according to reports, will give member states two years to improve their performance or face legally binding energy use targets.
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