Fabian Demicoli

Europe lags behind on its energy policy targets, warns the EESC

 Progress towards a low-carbon economy in the EU and some of its Member States is falling dangerously behind current targets, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has warned. To avoid missing its energy targets, the EU must accelerate progress and take society with it.
The warning came in the EESC's opinion on the Energy Roadmap 2050, which was adopted by the body's plenary session.

In the view of the Committee, the EU fails to recognise the extent to which it is falling short of its own targets. "The decline of heavily polluting production processes in the EU, their growth in other parts of the world and subsequent import into the EU disguise the extent of the shortfall", says Pierre Jean Coulon (Workers' Group, France), the opinion's rapporteur.

The EU aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 whilst simultaneously guaranteeing security and competitiveness of supply. The EESC is not urging new long-term targets, but it is pushing for clear medium-term goals that, if well monitored, would guide progress over the coming years.

As energy investments take decades to implement and pay off, it is in the best interest of the EU and its Member States to set indicative targets for 2030 and to back them up with appropriate policies, the EESC argues. Investment decisions are not helped by the pricing of carbon emissions, which the Committee deems "too low and volatile to give a useful signal to investors". "Changing this would avoid the lock-in of carbon-intensive plants", says Richard Adams, co-rapporteur of the opinion.

Energy efficiency is not being driven fast enough and Europe must step up its action to establish common standards for energy efficiency in all sectors, the EESC argues. Turning to renewables, it cites unsteady government support and in some cases local resistance as barriers to progress.

It is particularly dismayed at the slow pace of modernisation of grid and energy storage facilities. "Reaching the 2050 renewable targets will require very determined and consistent political leadership", says Mr Coulon.

In the short term, the investment needed to meet these targets will lead to energy price increases and extra costs for consumers and businesses, according to the Committee. This makes it more urgent to have all the effects "fully costed, debated and accepted by all concerned", it notes. "In the longer term, it will make the European economy more resilient and competitive globally than if it simply continues with present policies".

"Public acceptance of energy choices is a challenge for Europe's democracies today", says Mr Adams, adding: "The 2050 Roadmap must be used not only to launch the widest possible debate among Europeans, it should also promote engagement at every level – personal, regional, national and EU". "The challenge is not just to reach our objectives but to convince civil society that they are attainable", added Mr Coulon.

The Committee reiterated its call for the establishment of a European civil society forum to boost the flow of information within the EU by regularly bringing together all stakeholders for discussion of the energy transition up to 2050. 

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