The EU is responsible for around 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions and has (through its Member States) agreed to an 8% cut in these by 2008/12 under the Kyoto Protocol. Beyond this, the EU adopted a range of more demanding, longer term targets at the Berlin Summit in March 2007, specifically:
In line with these targets, a range of Directives have been put in place, the more important of which are described below, and these provide the context for the national policies adopted by the UK Government.
Introduced in 2005, EU-ETS is the primary mechanism put in place by the EU to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It works by individual EU Member States being set annual (and declining) CO2 emission limits. Each Member State then allocates these national emissions allowances to its major corporations (including electricity utilities) who are then obliged to either:
EU-ETS provides a physical cost to greenhouse gas emissions and, through the market mechanism, ensures that reductions are achieved in the most cost-effective way possible.
Dating back to 2001, the LCPD is specifically targeted reducing at harmful emissions (in particular sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and dust) from large power stations. Under this, EU Member States are required to instruct their electricity utilities to either:
In the UK, electricity utilities have elected not to upgrade some 13 power stations with a combined generating capacity of 13 GW (approximately 15% of the UK’s total capacity) and filling this gap is a major driver for UK energy policy.
The EC White Paper on Renewable Energy of 1997 set a target of increasing renewable energy from 6%to 12% of consumption by 2010. This led to the adoption of the EU Renewable Energy Directive in 2001 which established a binding target of increasing the proportion of EU’s electricity (as distinct from energy) generated from renewable sources to 21% by 2010 (the UK’s target being 10%).
Following the Berlin summit in 2007 a new, more ambitious target of increasing renewable energy to 20% of consumption by 2020 was established. This was translated into national targets in January 2008 (that for the UK being set at 15%) and these are expected to be formalised in a new Renewable Energy Directive during the first half of 2009.