Energy for Change?

Recommendations for the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Targets.

“We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.” [1]

The European Commission is currently developing its climate and energy targets for 2030. A strong, ambitious, and binding framework is essential if Europe is to play its role in keeping the world on a 2°C trajectory[2]. We cannot sacrifice human and environmental well-being for the sake of economic growth and increasing luxury.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action. Credit: European Commission

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action. Credit: European Commission

What should an ambitious and binding framework include? 

A complete and comprehensive set of 3 targets

First, it is vital that we continue with a complete set of complementary targets covering greenhouse gas reduction, renewables, and energy efficiency. Reducing this to a single greenhouse gas emissions reduction target (as some lobbyists are proposing) will simply result in a target that is not effective in mitigating climate change. On its own, an emissions reduction target that does not specify how these reductions should be made, will not bring about the systemic changes that are essential. Worse, it will encourage false savings such as:

  • Shale gas. This is not an option for replacing coal power. The greenhouse gas emissions during the life cycle of a well (including after decommissioning) are too high to enable us to reach our long-term climate targets and stay within the vital 2°C limit, especially given the high risk of methane leakage. The fracking process contaminates water and soils, causing major concerns for the environment and public health.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The lack of viable options means that this is not a solution, but rather a pipe dream for those hoping that they can continue to burn fossil fuels rather than making the long term systemic changes that we need to see.
  • Biofuels. The current contribution of biofuels to the renewables target is too large, especially given the fact that many of them do not actually contribute to emissions reductions and also have negative consequences for biodiversity and food resources as well as land tenure and social justice. The contribution of biofuels to the 2030 targets should be limited.

Our priority must be on energy efficiency: a cost-effective, no-regrets policy without which it is impossible to bring about the essential long-term changes that we need to reach our 2050 target of 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 shows that “very significant energy savings are crucial to achieving all decarbonisation scenarios.” The energy efficiency target is essential in ensuring that we take genuine steps towards a low-carbon lifestyle. We cannot assume that we can continue with business as usual, or that we can take the easy way out. The energy efficiency target must represent a serious commitment to reducing our energy consumption.

Ambitious Targets

Targets must be ambitious. A 2030 emissions reduction target of 40% (the figure that, according to the commission, is in line with the 2° C warming limit) would not be sufficient for a number of reasons:

  • In 2007, the IPCC recommended that developed countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by as early as 2020, in order to minimise the risk of ‘dangerous’ climate change. In light of the latest science, it is likely that the forthcoming IPCC report will recommend even faster, stronger reductions in order to maintain any possibility of staying below the necessary 2°C. [3]
  • We are already on track to meet the 2020 emissions target, and continuing along this track is essential. More ambitious 2030 targets will boost the momentum of current mitigation actions, as stakeholders will already have their sights on working towards 2030.
  • The Council of the European Union[4] recently stated its commitment to an equitable and just approach to sustainable development and resource use. A fundamental element in achieving this is accepting our share of the responsibility for combatting climate change. A 40% emissions reduction target does not represent the EU share of responsibility for global emissions. According to analysis commissioned by Greenpeace and Ecofys, we should be aiming for at least 49%. This would better reflect the EU’s share of responsibility for global greenhouse gas emissions, its capacity to act to mitigate these, and its recognition of other countries’ rights to further human well-being. A higher target that recognised these responsibilities would give the EU greater leverage in negotiating a strong international climate change agreement.

Binding targets

Targets must be legally binding in order to be effective, as demonstrated by the current lack of progress on the voluntary 2020 efficiency target. Binding targets will also give the EU leverage to inspire a strong global agreement.

QCEA calls for an ambitious and binding renewables target as part of the 2030 framework. Credit: Hans Hillewaert

QCEA calls for an ambitious and binding renewables target as part of the 2030 framework. Credit: Hans Hillewaert

European and national level targets

Finally, the scope of the headline targets should be European, but they should also be broken down to national level so that member states maintain clarity, responsibility and flexibility in contributing to the headline targets.

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QCEA put forward these recommendations in its response to the Commission’s recent consultation regarding ‘The Green Paper on a 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies’. You can read our response here.

But there is still much to do if we wish to see a strong climate and energy framework become a reality. Acting together, and as individuals, citizens can stay informed and speak out to hold decision-makers accountable. Throughout the process of deciding upon the 2030 targets, public opinion will be important, and we can let European and national decision-makers know that only comprehensive, ambitious, and binding targets are acceptable. It is likely that the final decisions on the 2030 framework will not take place until after the 2014 European parliamentary elections. This means that the framework could become an important election issue, and we can let MEPs know that their stance on climate and energy policy will be something that we will be considering when we cast our vote.

QCEA responded fully to the Commission’s consultation regarding ‘The Green Paper on a 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies’. To read the response click here, or contact Bethany Squire for more information.


[1] The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, Advices and Queries, 1.02 (42)

[2] 2° C has widely been considered by scientists as the global warming limit beyond which climate change becomes dangerous to life on Earth. “Significant global impacts on ecosystems and water resources are likely at global temperature rises of between 1 and 2°C, and the risks of net negative impacts on global food production occur at temperature increases upwards from 2-2.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.”

[3] Friends of the Earth Europe, (2013), Why Europe needs binding targets for 2030 – for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, renewable energy and energy savings. Http://www.foeeurope.org/2030-climate-plan

[4] In this instance the general affairs configuration of the Council of the European Union, which is made up of the Foreign Ministers of each Member State.

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About Bethany Squire

Bethany worked as QCEA's Sustainability Programme Assistant from September 2012 to September 2013

One comment

  1. Pingback: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): Short term gain for long term pain? | The QCEA Blog

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