Hard energy choices
Proposals from the EU Commission on renewable energy targets and cuts in carbon emissions have disappointed organisations concerned about climate change. But, as Commissioner Hedegaard conceded, anything more ambitious and binding in nature would probably have been rejected by member states and become a dead duck. In essence, the proposals reflect altered economic realities within the EU and political compromise. Lobbying by voluntary organisations, fossil fuel companies and renewable energy interests is likely to intensify. Heads of state will formally consider the proposals at a summit meeting in March while the European Parliament is expected to debate the implications of a slowdown in the development of renewable energy before the May elections.
Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said the recommendations will not affect current policy. It runs until 2020 and requires a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and a 20 per cent input from renewable sources. The Commission now favours a 40 per cent cut in carbon emissions and a non-binding input of 27 per cent from renewable energy by 2030. The British government has been particularly active in urging a go-slow, quoting rising energy prices, the impact of recession in Europe and high unemployment as reasons for caution. It is in the process of upgrading its nuclear energy capacity while promoting the recovery of gas through fracking, in response to developments in the United States.
These developments have serious implications. Export of wind-generated energy to Britain could become economically unattractive while the construction of an integrated European grid transmission system may be delayed. The proposed cut in carbon emissions would also affect Government policy as it relates to development of the agricultural sector and transport policy. As Green Party leader Eamon Ryan suggested, there is an urgent need for debate on climate and energy choices. That debate should be informed and based on sound science.