EU On Collision Course With Industry Over Climate Plan

  • Date: 22/01/14
  • Venessa Mock, The Wall Street Journal

Far reaching proposals by the European Commission to address climate change with binding targets to cut carbon emissions drew protests from heavy industry and large utilities Wednesday. Eurofer, an umbrella group for Europe’s steel producers, has called for the targets to be weakened.

The European Union’s executive on Wednesday proposed to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, rejecting earlier pressure from a number of the bloc’s members and industry to lower the target to 35%.

It also said the 28-member bloc as a whole must ensure that clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, make up at least 27% of the overall energy use by 2030, also compared with 1990 levels. The renewable energy goal, however, applies to the EU as a whole and not to each member state individually.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the proposals meant that Europe was again “shaping the debate” on climate change, at a time when other developed nations were “backtracking”. He wants the plans to be agreed in time for crunch international talks on climate change in Paris next year, aimed at setting new global targets to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The commission also put forward legislation to fix structural weakness in the struggling European carbon trading system, or ETS, and it set out guidelines for the exploration of shale gas. In a departure from its first climate change program, however, it refrained from setting targets for energy efficiency.

However, a long road lies ahead before the targets are agreed, as they first need the support of the bloc’s 28 member states and the European Parliament.

The most bitterly-fought contest was over renewable energy, where pronuclear Britain had pushed for more flexibility, while Germany pushed for national targets, arguing they would bring about strong growth in clean energy across the EU. The current proposal means Britain can now forge ahead boosting atomic energy, which is carbon-free but not renewable.

But Eurofer, an umbrella group for Europe’s steel producers, was among many sectors clamoring for the objectives to be weakened.

“Steel in Europe has reduced its emissions per tonne of production by 50% since the 1970s. It is now however at the limit of existing technology and it simply cannot meet the new targets being discussed by Europe,” said Eurofer director-general Gordon Moffat. “How does the European Commission intend to deal with this reality?”

Mr. Barroso played down the concerns from industry, and said the proposals won’t harm business competitiveness.

Full story