UK govt secretly trying to weaken European Union’s climate regulations
Leaked documents reveal UK fight to dilute EU green energy targets Allegations of coalition hypocrisy over green issues as critics say documents show UK has caved in to fossil fuel lobbyists, Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent guardian.co.uk, 3 June 2012 The government has been trying to water down key environmental regulations in Brussels despite trumpeting its commitment to green issues at home, leaked documents show.
The papers, seen by the Guardian, reveal British officials repeatedly trying to prevent the adoption of European Union rules on energy efficiency, curtailing the proposals and making them voluntary rather than mandatory in many cases. In addition, the UK has tried repeatedly to ensure that the EU does not adopt a new target for renewable energy generation.
They are significant because they indicate that Ed Davey, the energysecretary since February, has given his blessing to lobbying begun under his predecessor Chris Huhne. These government efforts have the backing of the UK’s big six energy firms, according to other documents obtained under freedom of information rules.
Both issues remain key to plans to reduce European greenhouse gas emissions – putting the government’s position in Europe at odds with its fanfare over the last few weeks for the proposed “green” energy bill. Ministers have described the bill, the centrepiece of claims to be “thegreenest government ever“, as likely to generate £110bn in investment in low-carbon and efficient energy infrastructure in the UK in the biggest shakeup of the market since privatisation in the 1980s.
The current EU target for renewables – to generate 20% of energy from sources such as solar and wind – runs out in 2020 and as yet there is nothing to replace it. But having a fixed target is regarded as crucial to create the certainty needed for investors to back technologies such as sun, wind and tide; the current target is credited with spurring a huge rise in renewable generation.
Renewable energy developers and green campaigners fear that without a similar target for 2030, the impetus to invest in renewables will be lost to fossil fuels such as gas.
Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency , told the Guardian: “It would threaten investment in renewables if there is an over-reliance on gas.”
In one leaked document, from the Council of the EU on the draft 2050 proposals on energy, the UK has attempted to excise a reference to a potential 30% target for renewables by 2030, replacing it with the far more vague wording of “a significantly increased share for renewable in the energy mix”. At another point in the document, which is dated 23 April 2012, the UK has tried to remove the word “urgent”.
The document shows that Davey, a Liberal Democrat, has opposed a new EU target on renewable energy since taking office in early February. A previous document showing attempts by the government to water down the EU renewable energy target – revealed by the Guardian in March – was largely prepared under his predecessor, Chris Huhne.
Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian that a renewed focus on gas was bad news for renewables. “It would threaten investment in renewables, if there is an over-reliance on gas,” he said.
The UK wants Europe to toughen its commitment on cutting carbon, from a goal of reductions of 20% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, to a far stiffer cut of 30% by the same date. But that position has been undermined by a rebellion by Tory MEPs, many of whom have rejected the tougher target.
On energy efficiency – for which the European Commission is trying to draw up a new directive – the UK is proposing measures that would water down the obligations of businesses and the public sector to cut the amount of wasted energy. According to the leaked documents, the UK is trying to prevent the EU’s target of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 from being made legally binding. British officials are also saying no to mandatory audits of efficiency, which the European Commission argues are needed to ensure the targets are being met. The UK also opposes some renovations of public buildings on the basis that they could compromise public safety, although this argument is widely disputed. The key document is from the Council of the EU dated 30 May……
The UK’s proposed changes, which green campaigners say would fatally weaken the energy efficiency plans, chime with the opinions of the big six suppliers, as recorded in their responses to an informal consultation held by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, obtained by Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act……
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