Ukraine crisis will test EU green promises

Ministers from European Union countries will meet this week to try to agree on joint plans to tackle climate change, with some diplomats saying countries under economic pressure could water down some of the more ambitious targets proposed by Brussels .

The previously scheduled meeting of European energy ministers will also give them the opportunity to discuss contingency plans to reduce gas demand, which Brussels will draw up in the coming weeks in the event of further cuts in supply from Russia.

Energy ministers meeting on Monday and environment ministers meeting the following day are expected to agree common positions on proposed legislation to meet the 2030 target of reducing net emissions by 55% below 1990 levels The laws would expand renewables, revamp Europe’s carbon market and ban sales of new fossil fuel cars from 2035.

Watch the latest news on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>

According to Brussels, the energy supply crisis caused this year by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means that the 27 EU countries should act even faster to wean themselves off fossil fuels. But the threat of economic collapse from soaring energy prices has also made some countries more cautious about the rapid change they fear will bring more disruption.

Energy ministers are expected to back targets proposed by the European Commission last year to get 40% of energy from renewable sources and cut energy consumption by 9% from expected levels by 2030.

Brussels raised those targets to 45% and 13% last month, in a bid to hasten the end of countries’ reliance on imported – and increasingly expensive – fossil fuels. Ministers are expected to approve the initial proposals and postpone consideration of improved versions until later this year when they negotiate final laws with the European Parliament.

Renewables accounted for around 22% of EU energy in 2020.

The countries are considering weakening other parts of the laws, according to agreements drafted before the ministers’ meeting seen by Reuters.

The draft agreements would make some targets voluntary rather than legally binding, including a target to reduce primary energy consumption and a target for renewables to account for 2.6% of transport fuels by 2030.

Countries are also considering lowering the target that half of the hydrogen used by industry will come from renewable sources by 2030.

Some diplomats have raised concerns that the changes, if approved, would cause the EU to miss its climate targets. But others have said they expect countries to preserve the essentials needed to meet emissions targets.

Christi C. Elwood