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Europe Dramatically Accelerates Plans to Create a Coal-Free Continent

The European Parliament wants member states to fill 35 percent of energy consumption with renewable sources.

Brad JonesJanuary 18th 2018

New European Energy Targets

Officials have approved new measures that will significantly raise European energy targets in the transition to cleaner energy sources. In December 2017, members of the European Union (EU) voted to approve legislation than 27 percent of all energy demand, including half of electricity demand, would be filled by wind, solar, and biomass by 2030. Now, that target has been raised to 35 percent in response to the concerns of an expert committee.

The EU is responsible for around ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions, behind the United States and China. Following the Paris climate agreement, European governments agreed to reduce these emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030. The latest targets set should contribute to that process.

However, the decision is not legally binding just yet. The next step is for the European Parliament to negotiate the plan with the governments of individual member states. This may be where the idea starts to crumble.

Aiming High

Already, Germany looks set to backtrack on its previously announced emissions target, as reported by Reuters. The country had previously stated an intention to make a cut of 40 percent from 1990s levels by 2020, but has re-evaluated this goal as unfeasible.

While Germany is still likely to be able to achieve the new 35 percent target suggested by the EU — Reuters reports it’s expected to hit the 40 percent reduction of the Paris Agreement by the early 2020s, and a 55 percent cut by 2030 — this demonstrates how individual member states might back down from the ambitious plan.

A mine and power plant in the distance in Turów, Poland. Given their reliance on coal, Poland is one country that may struggle to meet new European energy targets.
A mine and power plant in Turów, Poland. Image Credit: Martin Mašek / Wikimedia Commons

For instance, Poland is highly reliant on coal, and looks set to remain that way well past the 2030 deadline. As 80 percent of its electricity currently comes from burning coal, it seems unlikely that the country could rein in its usage over the next 12 years.

The same applies for countries where nuclear power factors heavily into long-term energy strategies, like Hungary. Nuclear energy is specifically omitted from the list of sources the EU is encouraging with the proposed guidelines, which will make it harder for nations who have invested in this infrastructure to reach the desired levels.

On the surface, the new policy being put forward by the EU looks to be a step in the right direction: a concerted effort to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources, on an international scale. Burning coal is harmful to the environment and harmful to human bodies; it’s long since been obvious that we need to employ cleaner alternatives as soon as possible. However, this is much easier said than done, and there’s plenty of work to be done if these targets are to be met by 2030.

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