The European Commission set new emissions targets and called on EU members to increase their use of renewable energy while also unveiling plans to make industry pay for the right to pollute. The EU executive adopted the blueprint. The measures will cost consumers an average of three euros ($4.37) a week and are designed to put into action the aim set by EU leaders last year to cut carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
European industry has warned that tough emissions targets could force some companies to move production outside the bloc. The Commission brandished quickly the threat of restrictions on imports from countries with easier environmental regulations in the absence of international agreement by 2011. “An international agreement is our absolute priority,” Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. “But let me be clear, if we do not make progress we will protect European companies.”
Reaction was mixed. Germany’s Environment Minister said the plan was “courageous,” while the Dutch Environment Minsiter said the targets should have been higher. Environmental groups criticised the package for being too modest and even posing a threat to the world’s poor.
EU countries are also worried about the burden they will have to assume on renewable energy. The use of renewable energies like biomass, wind and solar power will rise to 20 percent of all energy forms. Biofuels will also have to make up 10 percent of fuels used for transport. Around 8.5 percent of EU energy comes from renewable forms, but future load sharing will be based in part on gross domestic product.
Industry reaction was also mixed, ranging from praise to skepticism about renewable fuel demands to concern over market implictions. Europe’s big polluters accepted the principles of the plan while expressing concern over the cost and impact on jobs. Nearly 12,000 energy-intensive industrial plants will pay a high price under the EU’s emissions trading scheme, set to enter a new phase in 2012.
Barroso estimated that the total cost of the package would amount to around 60 billion euros ($86.6 billion), but some Commission officials acknowledge the bill might be double that.