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Climate and energy policies for the next decade - what are your views?

If anybody thinks that deciding on an energy policy is a relatively simple affair, they really need to read the European Commission's latest Green Paper on "A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies". They will very quickly realise that they are wrong!

In January 2007, the European Commission launched its first Energy and Climate package with its now famous "20-20-20 by 2020" proposals.  In March 2007, the European Council agreed the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target and supported the other targets in the package. I was Energy Advisor in the Commission at that time and, over the next two to three years, possibly made more speeches on the package than anybody else. I knew it very well and can claim to have really understood it and its objectives. I wish that I could say the same for the new Green Paper adopted on 27 March by the Commission (COM(2013)169) 

This is not to imply that the paper is not well written - because it is. Nor is it overly long with the text part not much more than 10 pages.  In fact, the paper is as clear and concise as the subject allows. The problem is that climate and energy policies for Europe over the six intervening years are becoming increasingly complex issues - especially when account has to be taken of 27 Member States and their different situations, hopes and aspirations.

While the European Union (EU) is "making good progress towards meeting its 2020 targets" the Commission believes that there is a need to "reflect on a new integrated policy framework for climate and energy policies for the period to 2030". There are three reasons for this: The long investment cycles especially for the necessary infrastructure; the need for a more competitive economy and a secure  energy system based on efficient and low carbon technologies ; and the expectation of a binding international agreement on climate mitigation by the end of 2015.

The paper itself is in four main sections. The Introduction explains the reason for the Green Paper and some of the changes that have taken place since the earlier Energy and Climate package - including the on-going economic crisis. The second section - describing the current EU policy framework and what has been achieved - looks at each of the 20% targets in turn (GHG reduction; renewables; energy savings) and the overall security of energy supply. The third section - which is the main core of the paper - looks at the "Key issues for this consultation" of which there are four: targets; other policy instruments; competitiveness; and the different capacity of Member States to act. The fourth section poses a number of questions based on each of the four "key issues" and a general question "which lessons from the 2020 framework and the present state of the EU energy system are most important when designing policies for 2030?". Finally there is a very short section that gives the date for the consultation period (2 July 2013). There is also a very useful annex that lists the existing legislative instruments and key reference documents.

From the point of view of carbon capture and storage (CCS), possibly the most important message is that GHG emissions would "need to be reduced by 40% in the EU" by 2030 to reach the reductions of 80-95% by 2050 (as set out in the "Energy Roadmap 2050" published by the Commission in 2012). How important such a reduction would be for CCS will be strongly influenced by the achievement of the 2020 targets for renewable energies and energy saving (which are far from certain) and any new targets, in particular for renewable energies, for 2030 and measures to try to meet them.

An important issue raised in the text (though not specifically referred to in the list of questions in Section 4) is the use of funds from the Emission Trading System (ETS) to assist sectors to innovate - noting here that the existing framework sees such innovative finance "in the form of NER300 limited to renewable energy and carbon capture and storage".  The future of the NER300 and any possible successor or successors could depend heavily of the responses to the Green Paper.

I would urge anybody with an interest in energy and climate policies - and especially those working on CCS - to read the Green Paper , make a real effort to understand the complexity of the issues covered and to respond to the Commission's consultation process within the given time limit (by 2 July 2013). The same is, of course, true for the Commission's "Consultative Communication" specifically on CCS published on the same date. Your input could be decisive!

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