The European Parliament's Committee on the Environment Tuesday passed a report written by British MEP Chris Davies that backs the European Commission's "Road map for Moving to a Competitive Low Carbon Economy in 2050," giving it a key legislative victory.
The plan seeks to boost renewable energy sources from providing 20 percent of Europe's electricity called for in current targets for 2020 to between 55-75 percent by 2050, thus cutting greenhouse gas emissions up to 95 percent less than 1990 levels.
It sets carbon dioxide reduction "milestones" of at least 40 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050 -- minimum scientists say is necessary to avoid global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius.
"Europe needs a huge increase in investment to boost the economy and create jobs, but investors must have long-term policy direction to shape their decisions," Davies, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said in a statement.
The committee vote was close, with 32 votes in favor, 24 against and five abstentions. A plenary vote on the measure is set for the Parliament's March 12-15 session.
Its passage endorses the idea the "European Union should be prepared to provide leadership on the issue of global warming," Davies wrote on his blog. "It will mean that, even in the absence of a binding international treaty of the kind that we seek, Parliament accepts that the EU should accept the role of first mover, and must take the steps necessary to build a low carbon economy by 2050."
The vote came as the Danish EU presidency is preparing to ask the bloc's 27 environmental ministers to endorse the long-term CO2 reduction goals of the 2050 roadmap, the Brussels weekly EurActiv reported.
The publication said a leaked draft of Denmark's environmental agenda calls for implementation of a 40 percent CO2 emissions reduction by 2030, which will presented to ministers at a March 9 meeting.
The Danish EU presidency will urge the European Commission "to present timely options for delivering the reductions" of the road map for the period to 2030, the document indicates.
The adoption of such long-term targets could help to boost the languishing price of carbon under the EU's emissions trading system, Marcel Van Dun, a spokesman for the Dutch power company Eneco, told EurActiv.
"It would put Europe back in the driving seat in the worldwide transition to a future-proof, independent energy supply for our companies and citizens," he said.
The MEPs sought to address the low carbon price and the need to secure investment in green technologies in the bill by calling for a "significant" number of ETS allowances "to be set aside and changes to be made to the annual rate at which they are taken out of trading."
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