Blog post - UK calls for 30% emissions target, but opposes the policies to get there

18 April 2012

On 8 April climate change minister Greg Barker told the Financial Times "We are working patiently and quietly behind the scenes with EU partners to convince them of the strong economic as well as environmental reasons why we should go for 30 per cent [greenhouse gas emission cuts] rather than 20 per cent".

Barker hopes to win his case in a meeting of EU environment ministers this Thursday (19 April) in Denmark. Good for him. But there is a catch. Barker's Department of Energy and Climate Change is just as patiently and quietly working to weaken a proposal for tougher EU energy savings legislation. This proposal – the draft Energy Efficiency Directive – will also be debated in Denmark.

Leaked copies of official comments are clear proof of the UK's opposition. It is rejecting proposals to make the EU's 20% by 2020 energy savings target legally binding – despite experience with greenhouse gas and renewable targets showing such targets to be the most effective solution. It is blocking mandatory audits and follow-up energy efficiency improvements for businesses. And in a farcical spy games twist, the UK is also opposing widespread renovations for public buildings on the grounds of public security (see the full story from Reuters).

Analysis from the European Commission – which UK climate officials say they agree with – shows the EU needs to meet its 20% by 2020 energy savings target to achieve higher greenhouse gas cuts. The reason? Fossil fuels still account for 80% of the EU's energy use. So using less energy is the most effective way to cut emissions. At present rates, however, only 10% savings are expected; the draft Energy Efficiency Directive is supposed to close the gap.

So the UK is going to Denmark to lobby for a 30% greenhouse gas target while opposing the policy which can do most to cut emissions. Hardly a victory for joined-up thinking.

By Brook Riley, Friends of the Earth Europe and Erica Hope, Climate Action Network Europe

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