EU to ditch transport emissions goals beyond 2020

Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:23pm IST

* Commission to outline climate policy goals next week

* Expected to include one main greenhouse gas target

* Years of debate expected before firm law agreed

By Barbara Lewis and Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The European Union's climate and energy strategy for 2030 will not include a specific target on curbing emissions from transport, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the bloc and the most expensive to cut.

Many in industry and some member states have pushed hard for a simplified EU climate framework after 2020, when current policies expire, that ditches existing sub-targets for sectors such as transport and energy.

That would allow governments to pursue the most cost-effective emissions cuts as they try to safeguard the bloc's fragile economic recovery.

But critics say this will mean emissions from transport continue to rise in contrast to all other sectors, making it less likely that Europe will meet its long-term climate goals.

The European Commission, the EU executive, will publish on Jan. 22 its vision for policy to succeed its 2020 climate goals. This will not translate into firm law until after lengthy debate involving EU member states and the European Parliament.

EU officials say they expect the proposed goals for the next stage to 2030 will include just one fully binding carbon cutting target of either 35 percent or 40 percent compared with 1990 levels.

So far, the EU is on track to meet its 2020 goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent versus 1990 and to increase the share of renewable energy in the mix to 20 percent. The one non-binding 2020 goal, of improving energy savings by 20 percent, is not likely to be met.

Existing sub-targets to cut road fuel emissions by 6 percent by 2020 and to get 10 percent of all transport fuel from renewable sources such as biofuel are likely to be met, but are not expected be extended in next week's proposal.

"Without a target on renewables and a sub-target on renewables in transport in the 2030 climate and energy package, energy from fossil fuels will be consumed instead of renewables, rendering the greenhouse gas target more difficult to achieve," the European farmers' union Copa-Cogeca said in a letter to the Commission seen by Reuters.

For 2030, the only renewable goal will be for all renewable energy and it is not expected to be binding on individual member states. A draft paper refers to it as "a headline target at European level," which critics say would make it very hard to fine nations who did little to bring on more green energy.

TRANSPORT BATTLES

EU limits on fuel efficiency and emissions from new cars and vans are still set to be tightened from 2020 and beyond, but those improvements will be cancelled out by pollution from an overall rise in road and other transport.

Trying to include transport emissions in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - which has successfully reduced emissions from the power sector and is viewed by the Commission as cost-effective - has been fraught.

An attempt to make international aviation using EU airports join the scheme from the start of 2012 provoked threats of a global trade war, forcing the EU to back down.

EU analysis has shown that other options to reduce transport emissions, such as increased biofuel use, are among the most expensive ways of tackling climate change.

Losing the sub-targets contained in the 2020 goals not only takes away an incentive to pursue biofuels, it also undermines the need for the Commission's fuel quality directive (FQD), designed to help member states decide which fuels best help it to achieve the 6 percent cut in transport emissions.

The fuel quality directive, which labels unconventional fuels such as tar sands as particularly polluting, has incurred the wrath of leading tar sands producer Canada.

Environmentalists support the directive as a step that goes beyond just EU-wide cuts, which also explains the intensity of opposition to it.

A long debate to find global agreement on cutting transport emissions, meanwhile, has yet to deliver results. ($1 = 0.7356 euros) (Editing by Anthony Barker)

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