ENERGY SECURITY AND SOLIDARITY ACTION PLAN

On 13 November, the European Commission launched an updated energy efficiency package to increase energy savings across the Member States, including more rigorous regulations for buildings and some electrical goods.

The new Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan follows the European Commission's second Strategic Energy Review. The proposed Action Plan is intended to build on existing EU policy and to assist member states in meeting their contribution to the EU's ambitious 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The planned EU package sets industrial targets of giving renewables a 20% stake in the electricity market, reducing CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

Those targets for 2020 are due to be implemented, principally, through a package of new Directives which are nearing the end of the approval process by the European Council and Parliament.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY PACKAGE: MEMBER STATES' RESPONSE

Members of the European Parliament have put back their vote on the EU's climate and energy package until December 17 because of a lack of progress in three-way discussions between themselves, the European Commission and member state governments. Divisions in the Council of Ministers over key aspects of the package are the reason behind the delay.

Poland and other EU newcomers have opposed the EU's original proposal to begin full auctioning of CO2 emission allowances for industry in 2013, arguing it would see large increases in energy prices which would significantly hinder the growth in their emerging economies. Poland currently relies on coal-fired plants for 94% of its electricity and has threatened to veto the whole EU environmental package if a compromise on the cost of EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) CO2 emission allowances is not found.

That said, Poland's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has stated that an agreement was "close" on the EU's planned climate package. Donald Tusk said he believed that they are close to a version acceptable for Poland "a version that will allow us to avoid a veto."

France, which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, will be aiming to get unanimous agreement of the bloc's 27 members on the proposed package combating climate change at its December 11-12 summit in Brussels.

PLANS FOR CCS

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method whereby CO2 released during the combustion of fossil fuels is captured, transported and stored in underground, geological formations. This is regarded as a key strategy of the EU to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The technology is, however, expensive and faces public skepticism in terms of the safety of long-term underground CO2 storage. It remains uncertain whether CCS will become commercially viable in time to contribute significantly to the EU's commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. At present, EU countries remain divided on how to fund the building of CCS plants.

The Commission is currently drafting several communications on CCS - included in the present draft proposals - in consultation with member states and stakeholders.

LATEST NEWS

On 9 December, it was reported that an informal agreement has been reached between Member States, backing the decision to boost the 2020 target to 20%. We will report on the final outcome of the negotiations in our January Climate Change and Energy Briefing, together with a review of the proposed legislation flowing from the agreements.