EU leaders agree new green objectives
Author: Jessica Laporte
Published: Friday, 31 October 2014
European leaders have vowed to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 at an EU summit last week.
The talks in Brussels were held to negotiate a Europe-wide pact ahead of the UN Climate Change summit in Paris next year, with the aim of unifying the continent as the ‘global leaders’ of climate change.
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy praised the outcomes of the conference claiming the objectives were some of the “most ambitious and cost effective” to date. The key points on the agenda were increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency both at a target of 27%, as well as reducing carbon emissions.
Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner said: “We have sent a strong signal to other big economies and all other countries; we have done our homework and now we urge you to follow Europe’s example.”
In spite of optimistic intentions in Brussels, conclusions of the summit have been perceived as unclear due to the flexible nature of some of the policies.
The energy efficiency improvement target came under fire for being only optional which green activists argue does not go far enough. Greenpeace EU managing director, Mahi Sideridou said: “The global fight against climate change needs radical shock treatment, but what the EU is offering at best is a whiff of smelling salts.” Allowing states with the choice to opt in or out has simply paved the way for legitimate non-participation which makes the policy difficult to enforce and thus challenging to measure.
The renewable energy targets have been met with resistance by several individual states who are against the agreements being rolled out as nationally binding. Though all EU countries are in favour of the target for cutting greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030, there is great concern as to who will bear the brunt of the costs associated with implementing green energy solutions.
Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic were in staunch opposition of the renewable energy proposals, arguing that the drastic decarbonising of energy would cripple their national economies.
With coal-dependent Poland threatening to veto the deal, the EU offered discounted carbon emission permits to Europe’s poorer nations in a bid to ease the financial burden of modernising energy infrastructures. New Polish Prime Minister, Ewa Kopacz, was thrilled with the outcome of the talks claiming Poland had emerged a winner.
The UK also rejected the nationally binding renewable energy targets due to strong domestic Eurosceptic sentiments which right-wing political party UKIP have been capitalising on. Critics have condemned Cameron for succumbing to the pressure of growing UKIP popularity amid fears for the Conservative party’s fate at next year’s general election. British anti-European sentiments have been exacerbated by the EU’s recent bill demanding £1.7 billion by December 1st.