The European Commission has introduced a plan to reduce Europe’s reliance on imports of Russian gas by improving energy savings by 30 per cent.
Measures required to achieve the goal may include improving energy efficiency of buildings and cars. However, critics said the investment needed to achieve better efficiency may in itself require additional energy consumption.
Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the Commission agreed unanimously on the 30 per cent savings target, raising the bar by 5 per cent compared to the previously considered 25 per cent goal.
"Given the need for energy security in gas because of the situation in Russia and Ukraine, what we think is a more ambitious energy efficient savings target is appropriate," Oettinger told a news conference.
Environmental campaigners and Green politicians, however, said 30 per cent was not enough and cited Commission research that has shown gas imports would fall by 40 per cent with a 40 per cent target, but only 22 per cent with a 30 per cent target.
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who had called for a target of at least 30 per cent, said Wednesday's decision was good news for reducing carbon emissions and "not such good news for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin".
Member states will have to discuss the proposed goal and have set themselves a deadline of October to agree on a set of climate and energy policy for 2030.
Whether the target will be binding at an EU-level or whether it will be up to individual nations to opt for it, remains to be decided.
The 2030 goals are to follow on from 2020 climate and energy policy, which includes targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent compared with 1990, increase the share of renewable energy to 20 per cent of use and increase energy efficiency by 20 per cent.
The Commission says the European Union is on course to meet those targets, but not all nations agree that multiple goals are the best approach.