Hanrahan, G., (2013). A New Wave of European Climate and Energy Policy: Towards a 2030 Framework. Dublin, Ireland: The Institute of International and European Affairs, 1-17.
Introduction: In the heady days of 2007, when climate change was climbing the political and public agendas, EU leaders committed to the ambitious trio of 20-20-20 headline climate and energy targets, to be delivered by 2020. This political commitment, formalised in the 2008 Climate and Energy Package, was designed to have normative force and demonstrate the EU’s climate leadership in the run up to the critical 2009 Copenhagen Conference.
Six years on, however, the landscape has changed dramatically. Political capital in Europe is consumed by the economic crisis and recovery efforts; climate has fallen down the list of political priorities globally; the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – the EU’s flagship climate protection instrument – is in turmoil; global investment in renewable energy fell in 2012; the unconventional oil and gas revolution in the US is driving a coal rush in Europe and casting EU high energy prices into sharp relief; momentum has not built around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and there is a shortfall in delivering the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency target.
Nevertheless, significant progress has been made in beginning the low carbon transformation of Europe’s economy. Emission reductions are on track and the 2020 target looks set to be over-delivered, though much of this success is a result of economic stagnation. The rollout of renewable energy is also proceeding apace, aided by the decreasing cost of renewable technologies, which is in turn associated with economies of scale in Chinese manufacturing in particular. Member States have made a political commitment to 80-95% decarbonisation by 2050 and the European Commission’s Low Carbon, Energy and Transport Roadmaps to 2050 have begun to articulate what is possible in this respect. Many Member States are also busy setting out decarbonisation agendas, with the German Energiewende perhaps the best-known example.
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