On Monday, European Union ministers started discussions to establish new legislation to combat climate change, but diplomatic sources say economic constraints may lead attempts to water down some of the EU’s most ambitious measures.
As the European Commission prepares to publish a proposal next month to coordinate actions for additional reduction in Russian supplies, EU energy ministers will also consider alternatives for jointly reducing demand for natural gas.
“For industry we have to present a coordinated approach,” EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said upon her arrival at the summit in Luxembourg, alluding to efforts to restrict gas usage, adding that individuals would be “protected consumers” sheltered from such curbs.
The energy ministers meet on Monday, followed by the environment ministers the next day.
They want to get an agreement on shared stances on new regulations in order to accomplish a 2030 objective of reducing net emissions by 55% from 1990 levels.
The legislation would promote renewable energy, reform the EU carbon market, and prohibit the sale of new automobiles powered by fossil fuels beginning in 2035.
According to Brussels, this year’s energy supply crisis created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine requires the EU’s 27 member states to accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels.
However, the danger of an economic downturn caused by rising energy costs has made some governments wary of drastic measures that they believe may cause even more turmoil.
Energy ministers are anticipated to support the EU Commission’s proposal last year to obtain 40% of energy from renewable sources and reduce energy consumption by 9% by 2030 compared to current levels.
Last month, Brussels increased those targets to 45 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in an effort to reduce nations’ dependency on Russian fossil resources quicker.
According to diplomats, ministers are anticipated to adopt the original plans and postpone consideration of the enhanced versions until later this year, when they negotiate the final regulations with the EU parliament.
Renewables will account for around 22% of EU energy in 2020.
Countries are contemplating weakening other aspects of the rules, according to draft agreements obtained by Reuters before of the ministers’ meeting.
Some objectives, such as reducing primary energy usage this decade, would be optional rather than legally mandatory under the proposed accords.
Countries are also contemplating reducing a goal of sourcing 50% of industrial hydrogen from renewable sources by 2030.
Some officials expressed fear that if the modifications are adopted, the EU would fall short of its climate targets. Others, though, predicted that nations would retain the fundamental parts required to reach emissions goals – and that without certain compromises, agreements on the legislation would struggle to get majority support among countries.
“It’s a very, very delicate balance which has to be struck,” said one official.