The European Commission presented a package of legislative proposals in July under the name "Delivering the European Green Deal", which aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions within the EU by at least 55% relative to 1990 levels. This was endorsed by the European Parliament and Member States last year as a crucial milestone on Europe's path to becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050 in the European Climate Change Act.
Seven interlinked legislative proposals in the energy sector seek to advance the realisation of these goals. Strengthening the European Emissions Trading Scheme and its expansion to the transport and buildings sectors is a cornerstone of the package. Other proposals in the energy sector include a reform of energy taxes, measures to expand charging stations and hydrogen filling stations and for low-emission ship and aircraft fuels, but above all the revisions of the Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency Directives.
Updating the Renewable Energies Directive (RED)
At present, 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU stem from the production and consumption of energy. An even faster shift to a more environmentally friendly energy system is therefore of fundamental importance for jobs, growth and emissions reduction. In order to meet the 2030 targets, the updated Renewable Energies Directive (RED) is proposing to increase the overall binding target for renewables in the EU energy mix from the current 32% to 40%.
This is supplemented by sector-specific benchmarks, with one particular aspect in the building sector, i.e. heating and cooling: the annual increase in the share of renewable energies by 1.1 % will be obligatory here at national level so that the contribution of this sector, which is important for the energy transformation, can be accelerated.
The European Commission's package also proposes various measures to support the development of and investment in renewable energies, such as promoting electrification (including a credit mechanism for the transport sector), making it easier to conclude contracts for the purchase of renewable electricity, expediting authorisation procedures in the field of renewable energies and fostering cross-border cooperation, with the aim of facilitating and accelerating the energy transformation.
Binding energy efficiency targets at European level
However, the European Commission's proposals are not exclusively geared towards making the energy system cleaner, but also more efficient. Another component of the package of measures is therefore the proposal for a fundamental overhaul of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). This new version now formulates binding European energy efficiency targets for the first time. These were previously only indicative. The EED foresees a 9 % reduction in total energy consumption by 2030 in comparison to the baseline projections (for which a new, up-to-date reference scenario for 2020 has also been calculated). This represents a 39 % reduction in primary energy consumption and a 36 % reduction in final energy consumption relative to 2007, compared to 32.5 % previously.
The public sector is expected to commit to renovating 3 % of its building stock each year in order to achieve these targets, not only creating jobs but also kick-starting the renovation wave in doing so. There is also an increased annual energy savings obligation of 1.5 % for each Member State.
Overcoming the climate crisis is the key task facing our generation, and no efforts should be spared to rise to this challenge – all the more so as its costs would be exceeded many times over by the climate damage that could be expected otherwise. The expansion of emissions trading will also lead to an increase in the price of fossil energies, however, which may place an excessive burden on low-income households in particular. A new climate social fund of €72.2 billion will be set up to make the necessary ecological change fair and to support these most affected groups. The fund aims, for example, to finance efficiency measures that mitigate price increases while still being climate-friendly.
Tobias Welck is currently undertaking an internship at the European Commission Representation in Berlin. He is on the European Affairs master's programme at Sciences Po Lille in northern France. He previously worked on energy issues focusing on synthetic fuels in the European Parliament in Brussels.
Robert Gampfer is policy advisor for environment, energy, agriculture and health issues at the European Commission Representation in Berlin. He obtained his doctorate in international climate and environmental policy from the ETH Zurich. He worked on the coordination of the EU's G7 and G20 participation before moving to Berlin.