Europe should focus on cutting carbon emissions instead of just repeating the existing EU green policy targets which expire at the end of the decade, Britain’s energy and climate chief Edward Davey told a global energy and environment summit.
"We should be moving towards outcome targets," Davey said on Monday (14 May). "Carbon emissions should be the key target."
He was asked whether Britain would support another target for renewable energy when the EU goal to increase the share of green energy in the mix to 20% expires at the end of the decade.
"While we think the renewables target for 2020 is a very good target and we believe we are on track to meet it, in terms of another renewables target, we have to think about what we are trying to achieve here," he replied.
Business, which needs investment certainty, has been putting pressure on the European Commission to come up with policy which can replace the goals that expire in 2020.
Davey said he preferred "outcome targets", such as a new goal on carbon cutting, rather than setting another target for renewables, which are becoming more economically viable.
However, he would not specify what level of new EU carbon target Britain might support. But Britain is already "one of the most ambitious, if not the most ambitious," he added.
In March, the The Guardian newspaper leaked a document which showed, that the UK government wants nuclear power to be given parity with renewables in Europe, in a move that would significantly boost atomic energy in Britain but downgrade investment in renewable generation.
The UK’s renewable energy sector has suffered a series of blows, with an anti-renewables backlash whipped up by right-leaning think tanks and Tory MPs, more than 100 of whom sent a letter to the prime minister attacking renewables and calling on him to cut subsidies from onshore wind farms.
Britain has a national target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 34% by 2020 from 1990 levels, compared with an EU-wide goal of a 20% reduction.
Britain also aims to cut CO2 emissions at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Along with Britain, Poland has also opposed a new EU renewables goal in an attempt to defend its right to burn coal. Poland has also blocked attempts to raise ambition on cutting carbon.
To help reduce carbon emissions from power plants, Britain wants carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology and last month relaunched a £1 billion CCS funding competition. Later this year or early next year, the government will reveal which projects will sign front-end engineering and design contracts.
The UK government is also ready to support the exploration of shale gas, but has a cautious approach to ensure shale gas fracking was carried out safely.
"I don’t think we should close down any options, but to proceed with developing shale gas, one has to make sure one has a very, very robust regulatory regime," Davey stated.
Last month, an independent report advised the British government to continue allowing fracking under stricter reporting guidelines.
The government is due to make an official response to the report after an ongoing consultation period.
EurActiv.com with Reuters