The EU's executive has proposed a less ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide, prompting condemnation from environmentalists. The plan still hinges on European Parliament debate.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso presented less stringent renewable energy goals in Brussels on Wednesday, saying the EU's sluggish economy needed respite to retain its "competitiveness" globally.
Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates slammed the revised plan as a "sell-out" that would leave climate-rescue goals "all but unattainable."
Barroso's commission proposes a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 40 percent by 2030 - compared to 1990 levels - and a less rigorous pan-European goal that renewables account for 27 percent of the EU's energy mix by 2030.
That would be less ambitious than the current requirement that each of the EU's 28 nations make binding carbon emission cuts of 20 percent by 2020, coupled with the goal that renewables make up 20 percent of the energy mix by that date.
'Affordable,' says Barroso
"What we are presenting today is both ambitious and affordable," Barroso (pictured, center) said, adding that it was important that Europe not fall behind its global competitors.
The commission's plan also calls for improved energy efficiency and a reform of the EU's emissions trading system (ETS), all while keeping energy prices affordable.
Already, the EU's greenhouse gas emissions are down by 18 percent compared to 1990, with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar contributing to 12.7 percent of the bloc's energy consumption.
'Sell-out,' says Greenpeace
Reacting in Brussels, Greenpeace's EU managing director, Mahi Sideridou, described the commission's plan as a "sell-out that would knock the wind out of the booming renewables industry."
Greenpeace said European energy and environment ministers should "correct the flaw" in the commission's plan when they meet on March 3 and 4.
The Climate Action Network (CAN), a coalition of more than 120 non-governmental organizations across Europe, said, if adopted, the EU's international pledge to stay below 2 degrees of global warming would become "all but unattainable."
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres hailed the European Commission's revision as a "positive signal" for a "meaningful" global deal.
UN member nations, which have argued bitterly for years, on how to enact curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions, are due to hold their next major climate change conference in Paris in December 2015.
ipj/kms (AP, Reuter, AFP)