EU Leaders Agree to Long-Term Energy, Climate Change Targets

Source: By VANESSA MOCK, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Friday, October 24, 2014

Leaders Gather at Summit to Hash Out Targets on Emissions, Renewable Energy

The 28 leaders haggled for hours before clinching an agreement that they hope will set the tone ahead of global climate negotiations in Paris next year.

“It was not easy, not at all,” conceded the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy after the talks ended. “But we managed to reach a fair decision. It sets Europe on an ambitious yet cost-effective energy path.”

EU leaders committed to cutting carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, which will be legally binding on every member state.

Leaders also agreed that the share of renewables such as wind and solar in the EU’s energy mix will be raised to 27% compared with 1990 levels, and a 27% improvement in energy efficiency.

The outcome will be enough to put the EU in pole position ahead of the Paris conference, but it fell short of the ambition demanded by Germany and Nordic countries, with Sweden holding up talks in the early hours of Friday on the grounds that the deal lacked teeth.

More progressive countries had pushed for a binding target to boost energy efficiency, arguing that this would also help the EU in reducing its dependence on Russian gas imports at a time of heightened tensions with Moscow. But the U.K. and others had balked at the high upfront costs of needed to meet the objective, such as insulating public buildings.

Poland and an alliance of other central and Eastern European countries secured greater financial support in order to meet the targets on the grounds that these countries have to carry out deeper overhauls of their energy systems.

The targets come at a critical moment in the EU’s energy policy as the continent tries to wean itself of gas and oil imports from Russia. But the subsidies needed for cleaner technologies such as wind and solar power have been blamed for ramping up energy costs for both consumers and industry, just when the shale gas boom in the U.S. has led to plummeting prices there.