Europe Moves Towards Renewable Energy

2nd March 2007
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The European Commission's plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 received a boost yesterday as Tony Blair completed a British U turn by overruling his industry minister and French diplomats said Jacques Chirac could accept the binding agreement.
The proposals, which EC president Jose Manuel Barroso  said would herald a new industrial revolution, will include an EU-wide energy market, a binding target for 20% of energy to be supplied by renewable sources by 2020 as 'primary' energy use (oil,gas etc) is cut by 20%, a requirement for transport fuel to contain 10% biofuel and an increase in the annual energy research budget of 50%.

Previously Alister Darling, British industry secretary, had said that the renewable target should be flexible and non-binding.

Although Mr Blair has now pledged to back the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Mr Barroso at the EC's Brussels summit on climate change in March, a spokesman for the British Prime Minister said the 2020 target would have to be met in a "realistic way" and Jacques Chirac has said their should be "flexibility in implementation". This is widely thought to be code for an agreement that Britain and France's nuclear industry be counted as cutting carbon emissions.

Without a big increase in renewable use, the 27-member union stands little chance of meeting its target of cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20  per cent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

About 5 per cent of the UK's electricity generation comes from renewable sources at present. This is behind government projections, under which 6.7 per cent should come from renewables this year to meet Mr Blair's pledge of generating 10 per cent from renewables by 2010.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007