Britain will no longer be forced to build wind and solar farms from 2020, under a new EU climate change deal that leaves countries free to choose how to cut their carbon emissions.
EU leaders vowed on Friday to cut Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, against 1990 levels, in an agreement that ministers say will bring the rest of Europe in line with the UK’s existing commitments.
Following UK lobbying, the deal does not impose binding national targets for renewable energy or energy efficiency.
Current legally-binding targets require the UK to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – in practice requiring about 30 per cent of the power sector to come from renewable sources.
Critics say this has forced the UK down an unnecessarily expensive and unsightly method of going green by building heavily-subsidised wind farms, solar farms and wood-burning biomass plants.
Some EU countries had wanted similar targets for 2030, while others such as Germany had also sought binding targets to force countries to cut their energy consumption.
In the end the EU set a binding target for 27 per cent renewable energy and an indicative target for 27 per cent energy efficiency improvements, but crucially both only at EU level.
“These targets will be achieved while fully respecting the member states’ freedom to determine their energy mix. Targets will not be translated into nationally binding targets,” the agreement said.
Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary said the deal was “good for consumers because we can decarbonise at the lowest possible cost using a diverse mix of technologies”.
He said: “This is a historic moment. Europe has sent a clear and firm message to the world that ambitious climate action is needed now. True to our word, we have delivered a highly ambitious EU climate target while also significantly strengthening Europe’s energy security by making us less reliant on imported energy. This morning only five countries in Europe had climate targets post 2020, now 28 countries do.
“The UK has been leading the climate debate pushing for an ambitious deal in Europe and by building alliances and working constructively with our European partners, we’ve agreed a package of measures that meet all the UK’s top priorities.”
Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at manufacturers’ group EEF, said: “The EU now has an emissions target broadly in line with the UK’s own ambitions, helping level the playing field for UK manufacturers and strengthening the market for low-carbon goods and services.
“EU leaders have signalled that they recognise the importance of protecting carbon-intensive industries threatened by overseas competitors from the full costs of the EU emissions trading system. But, we will be watching closely over the coming months to ensure these fine words translate into real action to improve what is currently a rather problematic protective system.”
But Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the deal did not go far enough to tackle climate change.
“The EU deal was probably the best compromise that progressive countries could hope for, given concerns of various nations about coal-burning and competitiveness.
“However, it is also a compromise with the climate system and with the needs of future generations. It’s not at all clear that this deal will allow the EU to meet its long-term target of virtually eliminating carbon emissions by mid-century, which science suggests is necessary for limiting global warming to 2C.”
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