Beyond 2020

Already Brussels is looking beyond 2020 for its climate and energy targets, with the European institutions in recent weeks endorsing 2030 goals and opening public consultation on the 2030 policy framework.

Leading questions include – what type, nature and level of climate and energy targets should be set for post-2020? How can coherence between different policy instruments be attained? How can the energy system best contribute to EU competitiveness?

Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy said: “We need to define our climate and energy policy framework for 2030 as soon as possible to ensure proper investment that will give us sustainable growth, affordable competitive energy prices and greater energy security. The new framework must take into account the consequences of the economic crisis, but it must also be ambitious enough to meet the necessary long-term goal of cutting emissions 80-95% by 2050.”

Current EU policy is centered on the three headline targets (20-20-20) to be achieved by 2020:

  • GHG emission reductions of 20%
  • a 20% share for renewable energy sources
  • 20% savings in energy consumption

Looking beyond 2020, the Energy Roadmap 2050 provides a basis for developing a long-term policy together with all stakeholders. First adopted by the European Commission in December 2011, the roadmap was developed in line with the objective of reducing GHG emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), as part of necessary efforts by developed countries as a group. How to achieve the EU’s decarbonisation agenda while at the same time ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness is a challenging issue, to say the least.

As a staging post on the Energy Roadmap 2050, the Green Paper on the 2030 policy framework is open for public consultation until 2 July 2013. On the basis of the views expressed, the Commission intends to table the EU’s 2030 framework for climate and energy policies by the end of this year.

Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said: ”Europe’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels is growing every year. That means more expensive and unaffordable energy bills for Europeans. This is not very wise. It’s obviously not wise for the climate, but it’s also not wise for our economy and our competiveness. That is why we have decided that in Europe we want a low-carbon society for 2050. We have targets for 2020, but for most investors 2020 is around the corner. It’s time to define the targets for 2030. The sooner we do that, the more certainty we get to our companies and our investors. And the more ambitious these targets are, the better for the climate.”

Fighting words – but the devil’s in the details. Should the targets be at EU, national or sectoral level and be legally binding? Some argue that the existing targets – and policies to reach them – are not necessarily coherent or cost efficient, or that competitiveness, economic viability and maturity of technologies are not taken sufficiently into account. Also, concerns have been expressed that the EU’s commitment to tackling climate change is not fully reciprocated elsewhere, impacting on the bloc’s economic competitiveness.

ManagEnergy opines that there are at least two aspects of behavioral economics that could impact on setting – and reaching – real climate and energy goals. Optimistically, there may be a positive effect from hyperbolic discounting – meaning that people will be farsighted when planning if both costs and benefits occur in the future. What kind of world do you want in 2030? In 2050? However, in the absence of international binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and the associated perception of free-loading – will the tendency towards pro-social behavior and fairness be diminished?

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