BRUSSELS: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed hope on 5 February that European Union countries would agree this week to set a binding 20 % target for renewable energy use by 2020.
He said he expected EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels ahead of a summit of the bloc’s 27 leaders starting here Thursday, to narrow down their differences, but was cautious about whether an end-of-week deal was possible.
“I believe we could reach agreement on a 20% target but if you expect a forecast here, I would say we will move closer to a rapprochement of positions among the various member states,” he said before opening the talks.Steinmeier, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the aim is to set goals “that will make it credible to public opinion that Europe really is dedicated to an ambitious project.”
In a draft of conclusions prepared for the two-day summit by the German presidency, the leaders would reaffirm the EU’s commitment to renewable energy sources beyond 2010.The draft document, obtained by AFP, notes “a [binding] target of a 20 percent share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020,” with the brackets suggesting the word “binding” remains controversial.
France and the Baltic states are known to be opposed to setting a 20-percent target in stone, and would prefer to leave it up to member countries to choose their own approach to cutting emissions of the gases that cause global warming.“The goal must be to reduce greenhouse gases overall. Then each of the states can take their own measures to cut carbon-dioxide gases, based on their energy mix,” a French diplomat said.
Energy policy has climbed high on the EU’s political agenda over the last year due to the growing need to find less polluting sources and concerns about the reliability of Russia as a supplier.But the EU has struggled to hammer out a common approach as member countries tend to put national interests first, based on the fact they rely on different energy sources to meet their national needs.
Some countries are concerned about setting unreachable targets. One top diplomat was quoted as saying that “there’s only a slight difference between high ambitions and recklessness.”Indeed in preparing the ground for the summit, EU energy ministers moved closer last month to a unified policy by agreeing cleaner fuel targets, but set the bar at only 10 % for renewable energy use in 2020.Despite this, Austria and Sweden were also hopeful Monday for an agreement.
“I think there will be, yes,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters as he walked briskly into the meeting.Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said: “I hope so because I think the EU is a learning organisation.”
“Europe has to become greener and credibly so. So benchmarking and setting ourselves goals and ambitions explicitly is a reasonable tool to achieve such an end,” she said.