BRUSSELS, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- European Union environment ministers are set to open debate on controversial 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy, the Greek presidency says.
The EU Environment Council will meet Monday in Brussels, where Greece says it will put the European Commission's proposed targets on the table for the first time since they were announced in January and subsequently dismissed by the European Parliament as "shortsighted and unambitious."
Monday's debate is meant to produce a report to be presented at the full European Council meeting of March 20-21, when the commission is hoping to forge a consensus among European heads of state in time for the Sept. 23 U.N. Climate Summit in New York.
The 2030 framework represents a "next step" after EU's current, legally binding greenhouse gas targets expire in 2020. The 28-nation bloc says it is well on the way to achieving those goals, which demanded a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels.
They also called for increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent and raising the amount of energy produced from renewable sources to 20 percent.
For the 2020-2030 period, the EU executive on Jan. 22 proposed a new set of targets which were arrived at only after bitter opposition from some member nations, especially on its call to further increase the mix of renewable energy sources.
They call for the CO2-reduction goal be doubled to 40 percent of 1990 levels, with the share of renewable energy increased to at least 27 percent -- a move staunchly opposed by Britain, which argued it would drive up the price of energy at a time when consumers are already paying too much to fund the transition to green energy.
Under a hard-fought compromise, only the CO2 reduction target would be legally binding on individual nations, while the goal for renewable energy production would only be applied EU-wide with no enforceable national sub-targets.
Meanwhile, the Commission decided that the role of energy efficiency in the 2030 framework will be put off until a review of its energy efficiency directive is concluded later this year.
Those proposals were dismissed by the European Parliament this month as insufficient. In a non-binding 341-263 plenary vote on Feb. 5, the legislators demanded not only a 40 percent cut in CO2 emissions, but a 30 percent target for renewable energy and a 40 percent target for savings under the energy efficiency mandate.
They also said all the targets should be legally binding and implemented through individual national targets.
The real reason energy prices are high is that Europe is dependent on expensive imported fossil fuels, a situation that can best be addressed through binding targets on locally produced renewable energy, Member of European Parliament Anne Delvaux said.
"If we have a broad energy mix with greater energy efficiency, this is the best option to reduce to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to encourage new technologies and innovation, create jobs, and change our economies into greener economies," she said. "This is why we need three binding objectives."
Poland, which is highly dependent on coal-fired power generation, remains bitterly opposed to any binding renewables target. It opposition could scuttle any hope of including such a requirement at the March European Council meeting.