EU sets Sweden’s emissions targets

The European Commission sought Wednesday to bind EU member states to obligatory goals for clean energy use, with eco-friendly Sweden being asked to derive almost half its energy needs from renewable forms.

EU sets Sweden's emissions targets

The Commission called on Sweden to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent and increase its use of renewable energy sources to 49 percent by 2020.

With 2005 as the base year, Sweden had expected the Commission’s renewable energy demands to exceed 50 percent as it strives to agree on legislation to reduce EU-wide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

“I think Sweden can live with the demands set by the Commission,” said Sweden’s EU Commissioner Margot Wallström.

Renewable energy derived from forestry waste is to count double in the Commission’s calculations compared to ethanol produced from sugar beet, a development regarded by sources in the Commission as particularly beneficial for Sweden.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the EU’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions would cost around €60 billion a year.

“This amounts to about €3 ($4.36) a week for everyone. A real commitment, but not a bad deal,” he said.

The targets — part of a wider package to slash greenhouse gas emissions by one-fifth in 12 years — will force countries to boost their use of such energy forms as biomass and wind, wave, solar and hydro power by six to 14 percent.

“This will require major investment and commitment,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned after unveiling the new measures at European Union headquarters.

Brussels hopes the targets — to be achieved by 2020 — will foster investment in new energy technologies, bringing with it jobs and decreasing dependence on other forms, like fossil fuels, and suppliers such as Russia.

“It is crucial that this legislation is not undermined by infighting between member states on their national renewables targets,” Claude Turmes, a Green member of the European Parliament, said in a statement.

“Increasing renewables is not some punitive means of achieving climate goals. It is a key means of reducing our dependence on foreign energy and creating jobs in Europe.”

After heavy lobbying from EU nations and environmental groups, the commission based its calculations on the amount of renewable energy effort being made in 2005, the most recent year with the most reliable data.

The effort was also weighted according to gross domestic product, essentially the individual wealth of the 27 EU nations, ranging from poorer central Europeans to richer northern and Scandinavian countries.

Sweden will be asked to produce 49 percent of energy from clean means, while Finland, Austria, Portugal and Denmark will be asked to draw on them for about a third of their needs.

Under the commission’s plans — still to be formally debated and endorsed by EU member states and the European Parliament — renewable energies have been divided into three sectors: electricity, heating and cooling, and transport.

EU countries will be left the flexibility to decide how their targets will be achieved, except that they will have to achieve a mandatory 10 percent share in transport primarily from biofuels.

Transport is the sector where the most rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions is being recorded.

Favouring biofuels offers the additional advantage of reducing the EU’s dependence on oil and promoting the use of this type of fuel, which is more expensive to produce and might be ignored otherwise.

“The proposal creates the most comprehensive and sustainable system anywhere in the world for the certification of biofuels, and for domestic and imported biofuels alike,” Barroso said.

The European Commission’s plan also includes a system to guarantee that this policy is sustainable, amid concerns that biofuels are causing rain forests to be cut down and sending up food prices.

The nations are called on to adopt an action plan to achieve their targets and submit them to EU’s executive by March 31st, 2010, at the latest, a decade before time is up.