The EU is near agreement on measures to put its 2030 climate target into action, with a meeting of energy ministers on Monday swinging towards more ambition
New governments in southern Europe have pushed the needle of EU clean energy talks toward ambition.
EU energy ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday debated a package of laws that will underpin the EU's 2030 climate target.
With targets set to be finalized in the next two weeks, the range of possible outcomes narrowed when Spain and Italy joined a coalition of more progressive countries.
A leaked document from the Bulgarian presidency of the European Council ahead of the meeting proposed improving energy efficiency 30-33 percent from business-as-usual by 2030 and boosting the renewable share of the energy mix to 30-33 percent.
New governments in Spain and Italy joined France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Portugal in pushing for the higher end of the range. That gives them the numbers to block a deal they consider insufficient. It also brings the council closer to an agreement with the European Parliament, which has called for both targets to be set at 35%.
"It is clear some countries are moving towards more ambitious figures," said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete in a press conference after the meeting.
That would improve the prospects of a deal, he said. On Wednesday the council will begin a three-way negotiation with representatives of the parliament and European Commission over the efficiency and renewable targets.
"The meeting this morning was much more positive than it used to be, especially on high ambition," agreed Quentin Genard, Brussels-based policy expert with thinktank E3G. "Spain and Italy have shifted gear."
At the same time, he noted, Germany was less vocally supportive of ambition than previously: "Germany used to be clearly a leader on these issues, but with the new government in place… we were expecting them to be much stronger."
With some countries determined to secure higher headline targets, the trade-offs are likely to come in the detail. For example, there is debate over the minimum levels of national action, a sectoral target for transport and which parts will be legally binding.
Discussions on a third pillar of the package, governance, have been deferred to 19 June. This will determine how the renewable energy and energy efficiency goals are monitored and enforced. "It is not sexy, but it is very important" to the credibility of the package, said Genard.
Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe, urged the Parliament to stand its ground. "The Paris Agreement requires bold and scaled up action to boost the energy transition," he said.
"As a bare minimum, the call of the European Parliament to increase the EU's 2030 renewable energy and energy efficiency targets to at least 35 percent, backed up by a robust governance framework and strong implementing policies, should be the way forward."
Once the complex legislation is approved, attention will turn to how the EU can raise ambition in line with the Paris Agreement. Ministers from eight member states have already voiced support for revising the bloc's overall carbon emissions targets.
The European Commission is due to update its long-term climate strategy towards the end of the year, which campaigners say must set out a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.
This article first appeared at Climate Home News