Coal: big in Poland

Green energy ambitions for 2030 under pressure at EU summit

EU leaders hoping to establish the next decade of climate and energy policy are facing an uphill struggle against certain nations threatening to block a deal.

Ahead of talks set to begin this week, Poland and Portugal are two such countries to have already made resistive noises.

Ambitious greenhouse gas cuts have been proposed, including an emissions target for 2030, setting the tone ahead of global United Nations talks next year on a global pact to manage climate change.

Poland’s economy is highly dependent on polluting coal, so is naturally at the forefront of objectors. Portugal has also indicated it will oppose the deal outlined thus far.

An EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a preparatory meeting on Wednesday had been, "a grand theatre that showed the huge differences between countries”.

Despite Portugal’s disquiet at the outline deal, it remains among those nations pushing for ambitious climate goals. The sticking point is its desire for a firm commitment to building a new pipeline and grid infrastracture across EU borders.

"We will not support a deal that does not include a binding (infrastructure) target because we need to create a stable, predictable regulatory framework in order to attract private investment," said Bruno Macaes, Portugal’s secretary of state for Europe.

EU sources suggest Spain has a similar stance having, like Portugal, a surplus of energy that it cannot export to the rest of Europe as it cannot move it over the Pyrenees and then through France.

EU officials predict that ultimately there will be a deal, but the finer details will be left for future debate.

"There should not be problems that could not be overcome," European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said.

"It should be feasible to agree on a 40 per cent domestic greenhouse gas target and a very strong signal on efficiency and renewables," she said.

The EU has laid out three 2030 targets: to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent versus 1990; to increase green fuel to 27 per cent of energy used; to improve energy efficiency, through measures such as better insulation, to 30 per cent compared with business as usual.

The draft policy would replace three 2020 goals, all of which were pegged at 20 per cent.

The 2020 goals were agreed in outline in March 2007, finalised in December 2008 and formally published as EU law in April 2009.

Some business leaders and some member states have objected to the idea of multiple targets and say the fragile EU economy would be best served by one binding emissions target plus a strengthened Emissions Trading System, the EU carbon market.

Others argue that only a set of binding targets will make any difference. They say firm renewable and efficiency goals are needed if Europe is to maintain its lead in green technology and curb its dependency on imported oil and gas, especially from Russia.

Climate campaigners say the EU 2030 goals under discussion lack ambition. A group of non-governmental organisations including Greenpeace have called for targets of 55 per cent for cutting emissions, 45 per cent for renewable energy and 40 per cent for energy efficiency.

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