Europe, Emissions and Echternach – assessing Brussels' January 2008 package.

June 26, 2008 | 00:00

Europe, Emissions and Echternach – assessing Brussels’ January 2008 package.

The European Commission has proposed a very ambitious overhaul of its climate change policies. But the renewable energy target could prove a distracting sideshow to the main task of reducing emissions.

The European Union’s rate of progress has often been likened to the traditional dance of Echternach, a way of proceeding around this Luxembourg village that involves two steps forward and one back. So it is with the European Commission’s mega-package of climate change and energy proposals of January 23.

For the plans to extend in time and expand in scope the emissions trading scheme (ETS) constitute a definite advance in the scheme’s design. But the new target for a 20% renewable share in Europe’s energy mix will involve costs that go beyond what is strictly necessary to achieve the over-arching goal by 2020 of a 20% cut in greenhouse gases on 1990 levels (or 14% from 2005, which is really the new base year for the Commission plans). It may therefore be, at best, a side-step.

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