Energy Union supports climate change targets
In March 2015, EU leaders approved European Commission proposals for an EU Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy, to give households and businesses across Europe secure, sustainable and affordable energy.
Using energy more wisely and fighting climate change is an investment in our own and our children's future, which will also create new jobs and growth.
Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.
The Energy Union will help transform Europe into a sustainable, low-carbon economy, putting the EU at the forefront of renewable energy production and the fight against climate change. EU leaders emphasised the need for a technology and innovation strategy focusing on areas such as the next generation of renewables, electricity storage, carbon capture and storage, better energy efficiency in the housing sector, and sustainable transport.
The Energy Union will also help the EU to reach its ambitious targets for fighting climate change and achieving a more sustainable energy system. By 2030, the EU aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40 %, boost renewable energy to at least 27 % of EU energy use, and improve energy efficiency by at least 27 %. EU GHG emissions fell by 19 % in the period 1990-2013, which is a step in the right direction.
New legislation and a new governance process will follow to ensure Europe meets the 2030 targets.
To cut emissions further, the first priority will be to adopt the Commission proposal for a market stability reserve (MSR) to improve the functioning of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) as the main instrument of EU climate policy. Also this year, the Commission will put forward proposals for revising the EU ETS Directive after 2020, and address the question of carbon leakage. Next year, the Commission will propose a new Effort Sharing Decision for emissions outside the ETS.
The revised ETS Directive will include two new financial vehicles – an innovation fund and a modernisation fund – financed by the sale of emission allowances from 2021 to 2030. The former will support low-carbon demonstration activities across the EU while the latter will fund the modernisation of energy systems in low-income Member States.
Renewables and energy efficiency
The Energy Union strategy details the steps to be taken to further develop renewable energy and energy efficiency in Europe. This includes, for example, increased EU funding for energy efficiency, new policies and legislation on renewables, and strengthening European energy research and innovation.
Today, European renewable energy businesses have a combined annual turnover of €130 billion and employ over 1 million people. The challenge is to retain Europe’s leading role in competitive renewable energy technology and innovation, and smart and flexible energy systems and services. The Energy Union also aims to ensure that renewable energy is integrated into a sustainable, secure and cost-efficient energy system where locally produced energy – including from renewables – can be absorbed into the grid easily and efficiently.
The buildings sector will play a key role in energy efficiency. Currently, 75 % of EU housing stock is energy inefficient. Heating and cooling remain the largest single source of energy demand in Europe. Refurbishment of existing buildings is part of the solution, but there is a lack of investment particularly in homes occupied by low-income tenants or owners. Therefore, the Commission will review the Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives, and simplify access to existing financing to make building stocks more energy efficient.
“Reaching a target of 27 % is not a business-as-usual approach,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. “It already necessitates more efforts from policy-makers and market actors. To achieve this target, in fact, the energy intensity of the residential sector – for example – will have to improve almost five times faster between 2020 and 2030 than it did between 2000 and 2010.”
The Commission will also examine instruments and measures – building on existing successes – to speed up decarbonisation of the transport sector. This includes promoting electrification and investments in advanced biofuel production, and further integrating energy and transport systems. Transport is the EU’s second largest GHG-emitting sector after energy. It represents about one-fifth of all emissions, of which road transport accounts for some 80 %.
The EU has already put in place policies and legislation aimed at lowering these emissions and mitigating their impact on climate change. They include mandatory CO2 limits for cars and vans, a strategy to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from trucks and buses, and targets to increase renewable fuel use in transport. Public authorities are required to account for energy use and CO2 emissions when procuring vehicles, and Member States must develop national policy frameworks for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure.
“Let's get down to work,” urged Commissioner Cañete, presenting the proposals. “We have set the course for a connected, integrated and secure energy market in Europe. Now, let's make it happen. Our path to real energy security and climate protection begins here at home.”
The Energy Union offers a vision of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary.
It represents a further step towards a low-carbon and climate-friendly European economy.