Rabbitte issued a statement after this week's informal meeting of EU energy and environmental ministers in Dublin indicating that while significant national differences remain on what form they should take, a broad consensus exists on the need for a new set of climate change targets after the current binding framework expires in 2020.
The meeting came after the European Commission last month issued a "green paper" formally opening debate on setting new post-2020 targets, citing the need to provide certainty for investors in alternative energy projects by 2015.
Rabbitte, whose country holds the rotating EU Council presidency, added that while there was agreement on the need for EU-wide 2030 targets, the ministers recognized they must be achieved in a way that keep energy costs down so that European industries can remain competitive, especially in light of the development of cheap shale gas in the United States.
They must also avoid triggering higher consumer energy prices and producing shortages in energy supplies, he cautioned.
"This joint discussion was timely and ministers recognize the need for greater certainty on targets, in mutually supporting the achievement of cost-effective and cost-efficient climate and energy policies," he said. "There is potential for maximizing synergies while addressing the possible trade-offs between competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability."
Rabbitte also said the national leaders urged EU commissioners to take the flagging economies of member states into account when developing the new framework, which is likely to call for a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 baseline levels by 2030.
EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said he was encouraged the ministers recognized the need for new targets, despite considerable differences on how they should be reached, the Irish online technology news publication SiliconRepublc.com reported.
"We should develop a common strategy, common energy and climate change policies ... and we should have binding targets," he said, adding, "No doubt member states have different energy mixes and shares, but our challenge, our ambition, is to come to agreement."
In the green paper, the commission says there is a consensus that to reach the European Union's Roadmap 2050 decarbonization goal of reducing emissions 80-95 percent, reductions will have to be stepped up from the 20 percent to be achieved in 2020 to 40 percent by 2030.
For renewable energy, the 2050 policy scenarios would require a 30 percent share for renewable sources in Europe's energy mix by 2030, up from 2020's 20 percent.
Meanwhile, the energy and environment ministers failed to send a signal support for the commission's bid to prop up the European Union's troubled emissions trading scheme by taking an oversupply of carbon allowances off the market via "backloading" them to 2018-20, the European Voice reported.
The future of the ETS is in doubt after the European Parliament this month voted down the effort, citing industry worries the move to boost record-low prices for allowances would hurt Europe's global competitiveness.
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