The European ministers are in the middle of a discussion on a set of laws. These concern climate ambitions and the energy question. Numerous laws forcing member countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions have already been approved. However, there are several proposals that continue to be debated.
Russian dependence, a new issue to be taken into account
Among the measures taken, the European Union wants to reduce its demand for gas. This would allow member countries to reduce their dependence on Russian gas. This independence from Russia is a priority. The European Commission will soon present a new plan to lower imports from Russia in a coordinated manner. But Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson insists that consumer protection remains the priority. This will require effective means to reduce demand.
Ministers are still seeking agreement on emission reduction legislation. These would force the Union to cut its carbon emissions to below 55% of 1990 levels. In the past, such laws were less debated. With the current supply shortage, such reforms are becoming more difficult. Indeed, several member states fear that environmental efforts will slow down due to the current state of the markets.
Promoting renewable energy and reducing consumption, the objective of European laws
However, the specific laws on renewable energy show a unanimous European commitment. Ministers agreed on targets for 2030. In particular, the goal of increasing the share of renewable energy in the European energy mix to 40%. This would be double the level in 2020, which was 22%.
In addition, they have accepted the law to reduce energy consumption by 9% compared to the levels initially planned. In line with this, the Member States have agreed to the German proposals to tighten the rules on final energy consumption. On the other hand, Spain has asked to change the proposal regarding the reduction of primary energy consumption. Thus, it is no longer an obligation.
Some points remain to be clarified
One source of tension among members lies in proposed legislation regarding a cost to carbon on certain goods and services such as pollution-intensive transportation and heating fuels. Also, on a potential ban on the sale of combustion engine cars by 2035.
Such a law has been debated for several years within Europe. Internal combustion engine cars contribute at least 15% of the European contribution to climate change and air pollution. The environmental issue is therefore major. However, a considerable part of the European economy is based on the automotive industry. While companies are transitioning to electric cars at an increasing rate and have been doing so for years, such a shift in the market carries risks on a continental scale.
On the whole, the member states of the European Union are divided between two logics. On the one hand, they are seeking to move away from dependence on Russia by divesting themselves of fossil fuels. On the other hand, with the current state of the energy markets and its prices, any radical change is risky in the short term. They fear that too abrupt a separation from fossil fuels will have serious consequences for their national and regional industries.
Some countries have therefore expressed concern about the weakening of certain laws. They fear that the Union will lack the tools to achieve its climate goals. Others insist that the fundamentally necessary elements remain in the law and that some compromise is inevitable in order to get a majority of votes.