Hugo Robinson is Research Director for Open Europe.
Behind closed doors in Brussels, European governments are engaged in fraught negotiations over the most far-reaching EU policy undertaken since the launch of the euro.
Despite the scope, it has received just a fraction of the attention the euro did.
The EU is cooking up not only a 20% target for overall emissions reduction by 2020, but – and this is the crucial part - binding targets for 20% of all energy to be sourced from renewables, and for 10% of transport fuels to come from biofuels.
What this would mean in practice is breathtaking. In Britain, it would equate to around 40% of electricity being generated from renewable sources (up from under 5% today), within a decade. Building five giant wind turbines every single working day from now until 2020 (14,000 in total) would get us just over halfway to meeting this target. Throw in the £23bn Severn Barrage, and just 65% of the target will have been attained. The plan will have a revolutionary effect not only on Britain’s energy infrastructure, but also on Britain’s physical landscape.
Open Europe has estimated that the Package, if it is fully implemented, will cost at the very least £9bn per year in Britain – and €73bn across the EU as a whole. This is equivalent to £600 per family of four per year. It could push one million more people into fuel poverty. The plan would squeeze the most vulnerable in society the hardest – just when they can least afford it.
But the most alarming aspect of all this is that it’s just very, very bad value for money. Clive Bates, the former head of policy at the Environment Agency, (whose blog I strongly recommend) branded the EU plan “reckless” because it “very heavily directs the response to climate change to some of the most expensive technological responses per tonne of carbon saved.”
This was confirmed when we investigated the Package in detail: the technology-specific targets for renewables and biofuels can only mean that investment is artificially directed towards very cost-ineffective methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. According to our calculations, these distortions will mean that the per-unit cost of carbon reduction of the EU Package as a whole will be extremely high, at least €80 to €105 per tonne of CO2 reduced.