Great news, everyone.
The Guardian’s live stream tells us the EU Commission has agreed on the climate targets for 2030:
- 40% cut of GHG emissions, from 1990 levels
- At least 27% of energy coming from renewables – binding
- At least 25% improved energy efficiency – non binding
- The EU carbon trading scheme will be reformed
I’m really really happy about this. Right up until the last minute, there was a steaming row over the renewables deal. The UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey was pushing hard for there to be no target for renewables, presumably in favour of nuclear and shale gas. He apparently said this stance was ”gaining traction” but only Spain was named as a supporter. In my previous post I said France was also in support – I was wrong, France was in favour of renewables. Due to this conflict it was expected for the Commission President to drop the renewables (or at least make the target non-binding) so the 40% cut could at least be agreed upon.
So even though 27% isn’t particularly high, I’m happily surprised it’s actually there and binding.
I also think the 40% cut is the best that could be expected. Apparently a few member nations were asking for just a 35% cut, and Germany was calling for 55% at one point, but the vast majority wanted 40% to be the target so there was no real argument over this number.
I’m unsure whether this is in line with the science. Critics of the deal have said it ”will do little to tackle climate change”, partly because emissions have grown so much since the 1990 baseline that the challenge is now much greater, and possibly because the EU can still import energy from other parts of the world – although presumably this would still count towards their GHG quota.
I’m surprised that the response from green NGOs and politicians has been very negative, saying this is a weak and unambitious deal. I disagree, it’s actually stronger than I expected. Sure, it’s not going to single handedly solve climate change. But it does set a very good starting point for the all-important global climate talks in Paris 2015. Plus, the EU may actually go beyond this target anyway. The current goal is a 20% cut from 1990 levels by 2020. Europe’s already cut 18%, and it’s on track for 24% by 2020. A similar overachievement for 2030 could bring the actual cut to the 50% that many green campaigners were calling for.
Also, it’s worth noting that this 40% target has been agreed partly because studies show this can be achieved without economic difficulty. It would be great if Europe agreed to something like a 70% GHG cut, sure, but they’d only do that if they decided climate change was more important than economic growth. As things stand, that’d be political suicide. The current growth-based economic system breaks down into a recession when it stops growing. If and when politicians start to consider the possibility of post-growth economics, they’ll be able to prioritise other things apart from the shackle of growth. With a steady state economy, growth would no longer need to be the priority.
That’s what’s really holding back proper action on climate change.
But for now, a 40% cut is a huge step in the right direction!