European Union moves to strengthen renewable-energy goals

European lawmakers have backed measures that would substantially raise the EU’s clean-energy ambitions. By 2030, more than one-third of energy consumed in the EU should be from renewable sources, the European Parliament says, up from the existing target of just over one-quarter.
But the decision is not yet legally binding: the Parliament will now need to negotiate the plan with national governments, which could attempt to lower the targets.
The measures are intended to help the bloc cut its carbon dioxide emissions. The EU is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, releasing about 10% of global emissions. EU governments had agreed in 2016 — in response to the Paris climate agreement — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. That target remains in place.
Last month, to help reach that goal, member states voted to ensure that by 2030, 27% of all energy demand — and half of electricity demand — should come from wind, solar and biomass, but not nuclear. That is a legally binding target. But some members of the Parliament’s expert committee on industry, research and energy felt that goal did not go far enough. They had previously suggested that renewables should make up at least 35% of the EU’s energy mix by 2030. The European Parliament voted in favour of that goal on 17 January.
“The increased policy ambition is welcome news,” says Glen Peters, a climate-policy specialist at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. But neither the current binding agreement nor the new draft measures say explicitly by how much they would cut greenhouse gases. So they give no guarantee that the EU will reach its 2030 emissions target, says Peters. “Only the passage of time will reveal if the combination of interacting policies is effective at reducing emissions sufficiently.”