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Europe's 2030 climate targets disappoint environmentalists

EU member states should cut greenhouse gas emissions, widely blamed for global warming, by 40 per cent by 2030, the European Commission said Wednesday, disappointing environmentalists who wanted much more.

BRUSSELS: EU member states should cut greenhouse gas emissions, widely blamed for global warming, by 40 per cent by 2030, the European Commission said Wednesday, disappointing environmentalists who wanted much more.

Member states should also ensure that renewables account for 27 per cent of their energy mix by the same date, it said, unveiling its 2030 climate change package to replace a 2020 programme.

The 2020 package set a binding carbon dioxide reduction target of 20 per cent, when compared with 1990 levels, coupled with 20 per cent each for renewables and an energy efficiency gain.

The Commission, the EU's executive arm, also issued what it called "minimum principles" for exploiting shale gas through 'fracking,' a controversial process widely condemned by green groups as harmful to the environment.

Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said the package would keep Europe on track towards a low-carbon economy while ensuring it did not lose out to competitors, as many critics claim it will.

"Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is a key for our competitiveness," Barroso said.

"Today's package proves that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory but mutually reinforcing," he said in a statement.

"An ambitious 40 per cent greenhouse reduction target for 2030 is the most cost-effective milestone in our path towards a low-carbon economy.

"The 27 per cent renewables target is an important signal: to give stability to investors, boost green jobs and support our security of supply," he added.

Green groups condemn climate sell-out

Greenpeace condemned the package as a "sell-out" which "would knock the wind out of a booming renewables industry."

"European citizens will pay the price: fewer green jobs, more imports of expensive fossil fuels and shorter lives because of pollution," Greenpeace EU head Mahi Sideridou said.

The 40 per cent CO2 target "is insufficient for the EU to deliver its fair share of global emission reductions required to keep global warming within safe levels," Sideridou said.

He also argued that in practice, the target could be just 33 per cent if the EU's Emissions Trading System, its failing market for CO2 pollution credits, is not fixed.

"EU governments now have to show some backbone and defend the climate by boosting clean energy," he added.

The 2030 targets set by the Commission have to be approved by all 28 member states to enter into law and its recommendations come amid sharp differences over priorities as the EU struggles to get back on a growth path.

There are complaints by some, led by Britain, that member states must be allowed to decide how best to adjust their energy mix in the face of increasing global competition.

US gas prices, for example, are just one third of those in Europe and industry groups have opposed any measures they believe will undermine their competitive standing.

Meanwhile Germany, which is closing down its nuclear power plants, has pushed for renewables to be given greater prominence and wanted a binding 30 per cent target so that its peers would have to make the same commitments and so avoid it being put at an economic disadvantage.

The 27 per cent renewables target is binding at the overall EU level of 28 states, not at the national level, meaning how it works in practice will have to be worked out in what are likely to be tough talks.

The Commission recommendations will be discussed by EU leaders at a March summit and then go into a long process of negotiation with Parliament before they can become law.

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