At a two-day summit beginning on Thursday, E.U. heads of state will try to agree on ambitious targets to save energy and reduce emissions.
“At the E.U. level, the goal is to improve energy efficiency by 30 percent by 2030,” according to a draft statement that Handelsblatt has obtained.
But the outlook is cloudy.
The United Kingdom opposes any target, and several Eastern European countries, including Poland with its growing manufacturing base, are reluctant to commit.
The European Union has been emphasizing for months the need to reduce dependency on imported energy, given the crises in the Ukraine, which is a transit country for natural gas flowing from Russia. Greater energy efficiency would be one way to achieve this, offcials in Brussels argue.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has calculated that if energy efficiency increases by 40 percent, the economic bloc could reduce its gas imports by approximately 40 percent and oil imports by 19 percent, compared to 2010 levels.
If, however, the overall goal is to increase energy efficiency by just 30 percent, the reductions in imports would fall by only 22 percent and 16 percent respectively.
Numerous managers have signed a letter to Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, calling for a binding agreement on an energy efficiency target of 40 percent. Signatories of the letter include executives from General Electric, Philips, Siemens and Velux.
Each percentage point that energy efficiency is improved can reduce the E.U.’s dependency on gas imports by 2.6 percent.
Each percentage point that energy efficiency is improved can reduce the E.U.’s dependency on gas imports by 2.6 percent, according to the letter.
European Union countries are under pressure to reach an agreement on goals for after 2020. Only then, experts agree, can the European Union make a convincing argument for an international agreement on binding targets at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
According to the summit statement, the European Union aims to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The economic bloc would also require that energy drawn from renewable sources should make up 27 percent of overall usage, during the same period.
While high-energy-consuming industries question the targets, environmental organizations say they are insufficient to achieve the goal of reducing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius per year.
The E.U. targets established for 2030 are a continuation of those set in 2008 for 2020. Initially, the goal was to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent, use 20 percent of energy from renewable sources, and increase energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020.
The member states have made good progress in these areas. By 2013, they reduced carbon emissions by 20 percent and met 14.1 percent of their energy needs with renewable sources by 2012.
Yet, they have failed so far in raising energy efficiency and are behind in their goals. The European Union is targeting an improvement in energy efficiency of between 18 and 19 percent by 2020.
Trading carbon credits will help this target. A surplus led to a dramatic fall in the price of certificates. After 2021, the E.U. aims to cap the proportion of credits by 2.2 percent per year. Currently, this is 1.74 percent.
The aim is for poorer countries to benefit more from carbon trading by encouraging them to invest in improved energy technology and to upgrade their existing power stations.
European officials speak of “a new form of solidarity” that accepts coal-generated power continuing to play an important role in the future.
Thomas Ludwig is one of Handelsblatt’s European Union correspondents in Brussels. He has previously reported on German companies and politics for Handelsblatt. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org