Europe and Central Asia
8 Jan 2016

Designing Europe's energy system of the future

Climate change mitigation, energy efficiency and renewable energy are the focus of 2016. Photo:
By Sini Erajaa

The previous year has still left us waiting for a vision on how exactly Europe will gear up to cut emissions, improve energy efficiency and increase renewable energy in the coming decade. Even though the headline targets until 2030 have already been agreed more than a year ago, the road towards those targets remains unclear. 2016 should hopefully change that.

It’s going to be a busy year in the European Commission. It has promised to roll out an extensive list of policy proposals in 2016 to ensure Europe stays on track to meet its targets on climate change mitigation. Proposals are expected on energy efficiency and how to cut emissions in various sectors. We also expect renewed legislation on renewable energy and a new policy on bioenergy.

At the same time, the Commission will also be developing adequate governance and climate policies for the Energy Union, and pushing for measures to advance interconnections in the electricity sector.

The level of ambition in the first policy proposals of the Commission is an important benchmark that will set the tone of the ‘real’ debate to follow between members of the European Parliament and the Member States on the final legislation and measures.

Earlier last year, BirdLife Europe identified its priority areas of work for a successful climate and energy policy for Europe and called for “the EU to develop its 2030 climate and energy package into a set of targets and implementing frameworks that will deliver an energy revolution in harmony with nature. Nothing less is sufficient to prevent runaway climate change and irreversible damage to our life-supporting ecosystems.”

This means the new policies on renewable energy will be a major focus for BirdLife in 2016. As noted in a report to BirdLife Europe and the RSPB, new rules for the sustainability of bioenergy is one of the key elements to ensure that renewable energy is deployed in harmony with nature. We have been advocating for robust safeguards for all forms of bioenergy for years, and such a policy has finally been promised by the Commission. Now it’s important to ensure that this policy really addresses true concerns on bioenergy sustainability.

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For the development of other renewable energy sources, the EU must ensure that all Member States make a fair and sufficient contribution towards the EU-wide renewable energy target. The EU and its Member States also need to look at their current renewable energy resources and plan their development within ecological limits. This can be done by encouraging investment in technologies and locations that benefit both renewables and wildlife.

Nature will also be entering the EU’s climate policy framework in a new way, as emissions from land and forests are finally included in EU’s climate policies. While we welcome this inclusion, ecosystems should not be reduced into just units of carbon in EU policies. Accounting rules for emissions and carbon sequestration in these sectors (especially forests) must be made watertight and accurate.

Finally, as the EU has also agreed to a higher target for grid interconnections by 2030, we can expect further drives to speed up consent for priority power lines. BirdLife will continue cooperation with the Renewables Grid Initiative to promote grid development that doesn’t happen at the expense of nature protection and that is done in line with EU’s nature legislation.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.