by Staff Writers
Brussels (UPI) Dec 7, 2012
The official debate over setting European greenhouse gas-reduction targets after 2020 began this week when EU energy ministers called for a new framework.
The EU Energy Council issued a set of "conclusions" Monday in Brussels. The conclusions outlined member nations' priorities in the energy field, including a call for the European Commission to "continue the momentum" it has built while working to achieve current 2020 reduction targets out further to 2030.
Extending the mandates are seen as essential by renewable energy companies and environmentalists, who argue investors need long-term guarantees that European markets for wind and solar energy will remain stable for decades.
They have pointed to "stop-and-go" political support for renewables in Britain and other EU countries as a major disincentive to securing the billions of dollars in investments needed to build out renewable energy infrastructures.
Post-2020 targets, however, has been vociferously opposed by coal-dependent Poland, which this year has twice vetoed attempts by the European Union to codify support for longer-term CO2-reduction goals.
EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has voiced strong backing for emissions reductions goals that go beyond current 2020 targets, which mandate a 20 percent reduction in emissions as well as a goal of increasing the share of renewable energy in the European Union's overall energy mix to 20 percent.
He called in October for "maybe more than 20 percent or 30 percent in 2030" and has said he wants a decision taken on targets for 2030 by the end of the commission's term in 2014, the Brussels news portal EurActiv.com reported.
Monday's energy council conclusions were generally welcomed by wind energy backers and environmentalists, who said they provided a clear signal that member nations want to negotiate further targets.
But the same divisions between EU members on the issue remain, Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte told the website.
"A substantial body of states wants to maintain the momentum but some -- like Poland -- are strongly opposed to binding targets being fixed after 2020," he said.
Rabbitte, who will be chairman of the EU Energy Council starting Jan. 1 as Ireland takes over the rotating presidency, vowed to try to resolve the dispute over the coming year despite what he called Warsaw's "very assertive" stance.
Poland objects that a 30 percent goal for 2030 would place too great a burden on its coal-dependent economy and also argues that true global reductions won't be achieved without similar commitments from China, India, the United States and Russia.
German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said Wednesday he hoped to broker a compromise between Poland and the European Union on emission reduction targets.
"We want to solve the problem together, but in such a way that the EU still able to commit to a 30 percent reduction," he said in an interview with Germany's ARD television.
He said a "pragmatic solution" that would be acceptable to Poland is possible but didn't disclose details.
"Poland has a particular problem, because it is heavily dependent on Russian gas, which it wants to replace with its own coal," the German minister said.
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