Postponing a move to 30% could damage competitiveness

On Tuesday the European Parliament voted against a 30% greenhouse gas cutting target by 2020 – a disappointing move that could, at its worst, damage European leadership in climate-fighting technologies.

While the vote did not have any actual legislative influence, it does send a negative signal to the EU decision-making world.

Today Europe leads the world in wind energy technology attracting billions of euros in investments (€12.7 billion in 2010 alone) and creating thousands of green jobs. But China, the US, South Korea, Japan and others are hot on its heels challenging Europe’s number one position.

Raising the bar – from today’s 20% binding target to 30% of 1990 levels – would have sent an additional signal to investors that renewables, and wind turbines in particular, are the future for the EU’s electricity supply, Rémi Gruet, European Wind Energy Association’s Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor said.

In the final vote, there were 258 votes in favour of adopting the report (drawn up by Bas Eickhout MEP), and 347 against. The report was rejected after it was amended – by MEPs from the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists – to remove its call for the EU to increase its carbon reduction target to 30% by 2020, the European Voice noted. An account in The Independent adds that Eickhout was forced to recommend rejecting his own report because it was ‘hijacked’.

The UK’s Conservatives “challenged their Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim to run the greenest government ever by rebelling against his support of a 30% emissions cut,” Euractiv reported. Eickhout also told Euractiv that heavy lobbying from the industry influenced the vote’s outcome. “Business Europe was aggressively lobbying against any change and within that, Eurofer for the steel industry was also acting very intensely,” he said.

While international climate negotiations are not making progress, Europe cannot relax its climate ambitions. The Chinese, Americans and others know there is a large and growing green energy market out there and they are gearing up to compete. We need to make sure we stay ahead of the game with ambitious climate legislation that will keep on driving European competitiveness in renewable energy.

By Zoë Casey,