EU heads of state today agreed three modest climate and green energy targets for 2030, which lack the ambition needed to put Europe on track to meet its own 2050 climate commitments and will not do enough to cut dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) says that now targets have been agreed, all eyes should turn towards implementation: the means and policies to achieve these 2030 targets can still make a big difference for the climate and the transition to a low-carbon economy where transport is crucial.

Transport is the largest source of CO2 emissions in Europe, with a share of 31% in 2012, and is responsible for about half of Europe’s €400bn annual energy import bill.

The deal agreed today has mixed messages on how the EU will deal with transport. It has generic but useful language on the promotion of energy efficiency in transport and the need to accelerate the move to electric mobility.

However, the agreement most regrettably includes the possibility for EU countries to unilaterally include transport in the EU carbon trading system (ETS), a move that will do nothing to reduce transport emissions and only postpone the necessary transformation of the sector.

While the agreed EU-binding target of at least 27% for renewable energy is too low to unlock the full potential of solar, it represents an important signal that investments in solar photovoltaics will continue. 

The ball is now in the Court of the new European Commission to build on this minimum target with a meaningful legislative framework and fair market conditions for renewables. Technologies like solar must be able to realise their full competitive potential and keep Europe on track for the much-needed energy transition,” concluded Thies.”The renewables target is a very small step to support the enormous potential that solar and other renewables represent. It is still an important signal of political resolve to overcome the existing market barriers and the adverse national political contexts where some Member States have implemented retroactive measures for renewables,” stated Frauke Thies, EPIA Policy Director.

Nusa Urbancic, clean energy manager of T&E, said: “The real-world impact of today’s adopted targets will very much hinge on how Europe will actually go about them. It is up to the incoming Juncker Commission to make sure they are met in real life and not just on paper and give investors the right signals. Keeping transport out of the ETS and adopting new fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles are one example. Limiting the role of bioenergy and biofuels – zero emissions on paper, often a lot in reality – in favour of solar and wind is another.”

The Council deal is also short on details in the promotion of renewable energy in transport. Most biofuels currently used have no or very limited climate benefits, but their use still costs the EU €6bn every year. The Commission has already recognised that these biofuels should not receive any support post-2020.

“Biofuels are an object lesson in what happens if you set wrong targets. Juncker’s commission has the chance to fix this once and for all by focusing their attention on low carbon energy sources, especially clean electricity, that deliver for the climate. Ensuring that we spend the billions of public money on sustainable electrification of transport instead of bad biofuels should be a top priority,” Nusa Urbancic concluded.

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