Although Europe is progressing relatively well with its climate protection goals, it wants to make future measures even tougher. Still, critics say the bloc's measures do not go far enough.
There are still seven years until 2020, the deadline the European Union has set for three major climate and energy policy objectives. Now the it seems the European Commission is mainly concerned about the scheme's next stage, which goes to 2030.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said the EU is largely on track for its 2020 targets. The bloc will probably manage to emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide and produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Only the target of consuming 20 percent less energy still needs work, although Oettinger said that goal is also achievable.
The EU Commission, however, is not satisfied, saying that energy policies and climate protection need a long-term perspective.
A pan-European grid for wind power
That all three objectives will continue to be pursued after 2020 is clear. While Oettinger said it is too early to set a carbon dioxide reduction target for 2030, he added that it should exceed 30 percent.
He added that it is also important that energy remains affordable for consumers and businesses and that industry remains in Europe. Oettinger said he was primarily aiming all three 2020 targets at the European internal market, which he says is totally underdeveloped when it comes to energy.
To the detriment of the whole of Europe, energy policy is still largely decided at the national level, he said. In Germany, as in most EU countries, the problem with wind power is that the wind is not always blowing everywhere. Oettinger wants the power systems linked together across Europe so that wind power is capable of providing a constant minimum output. After all, the wind is always blowing somewhere in Europe.
Commission: more 'green' energy despite the crisis
Such investments are, however, expensive and many EU countries at the moment do not feel they are in a position to fund costly energy projects. The EU budget has also been slashed. EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard came out against this line of argument, saying that inaction on energy and climate policy would be just as expensive.
"Globally, climate change is getting worse," Hedegaard said. "At the same time, the EU's dependency on energy imports is increasing and so is our bill to pay for this increased energy import.
"For Europe, building an economy that is energy-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient is not only an environmental imperative, it is also an economic necessity," Hedegaard said.
Sustainable industries, Hedegaard said, would ensure growth and jobs, even in the present crisis. Hedegaard also warned that Europe shouldn't rest on its laurels when it came to its previous pioneering work in the field.
After all, other countries are catching up. Even China, which for many years had been slow to move on climate policy, has set itself objectives similar to those of the EU in its most recent five-year plan. Whoever invests in climate-friendly business now will have the economic edge tomorrow, according to Hedegaard.
Goals not ambitious enough?
The reactions after the presentation by the European Commission on their 2030 climate policy plans have been mixed. Claude Turmes, a member of the German Greens party in European Parliament, said he still wants "clear and binding goals in energy efficiency and renewable energies ahead of 2030." Turmes said the goal of having renewable energy sources make up 45 percent of total energy by 2030 is possible.
Jason Anderson from the Worldwide Fund for Nature said climate protection goals are not ambitious enough. "If we don't stop dangerous worldwide climate change, then all other goals -economic, social and environmental - will fail," he said.
Competitiveness, welfare policy and climate change are not mutually exclusive concepts according to Turmes. "It's not just that we should try to achieve all of these aims, we must achieve them," he told DW.
Struggling to compete
Herbert Reul, a German member of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, said he happy that the "committee is finally considering the competitiveness of industry."
"It's not in Europe's interest to systematically disadvantage industry here in comparison to other worldwide competitors," Reul said, adding that competitiveness needs to be the clear focus of future energy and climate policy-making.
Corinna Grajetzky from the Brussels office of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry was of a similar opinion. An early orientation on energy and climate policy also helps companies to get used to a new situation, she said. "We need to stop putting additional requirements on companies and instead make maintaining our industrial base here one of the central aspects of climate policy," she said.
The Commission, on the other hand, sees their policy presentation as the start of a public discussion on the issue. They want European citizens, companies and authorities now to get involved in the exact formulation of the aims for 2030.