Last week saw the European Commission announce its proposals for new energy and climate change targets. The headlines were a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, and for 27% of European energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2030. The targets were at the higher end of what was politically possible – a reflection of member states’ lowered sights, rather than Commission ambition. The proposal also saw the Commission respond to diverging policy ambitions among member states by adopting an approach which is significantly more flexible and pragmatic than its current strategy. Ultimately, the proposals were the product of a world in which economic downturn has made energy cost and competitiveness critical political issues. It has taken the squeeze five years to work its way to the frontline of European climate policy, but it has arrived.
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