|Fig. 1: A map of Renewable energy as a percentage of total energy consumption in the EU in 2012, as well as in Iceland, Switzerland, and Turkey in 2010. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
On October 24, European Union (EU) leaders concluded talks to agree on a series of climate change-based targets for 2030 that will toughen emission-reduction policies and increase security of energy supplies.  The goal of the new deal is to reconcile multiple nation's strategy differences in order to provide cheaper and safer energy while increasing climate protection measures. 
The new energy goals serve as a sort of expansion of previous climate targets set in the European Commission's 2007 "20-20-20" proposal.  In 2007, the goal was to provide 20% reduction from in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20% - including 10% of transport fuels coming from renewables, and improving the EU's energy efficiency by 20% - all by the year 2020.  The targets were set in 2007, and were enacted through the 2009 climate and energy package in moving towards a highly energy efficient, low carbon economy.  Stavros Dimas, Europe's Environment Commissioner at the time, hailed the move as "the first time that any country or region has come forward with such a unilateral target" in a "leap forward to a low carbon world." 
While the original package was enacted only 5 years ago, long investment cycles in the energy industry coupled with time required to reach an agreement led to discussions opening earlier in 2014.  The 28 leaders overcame deep divisions and varying strategies at a summit in Brussels to lock down commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% and increase renewable energy supply and efficiency gains to 27%.  The countries were glad to agree on their targets ahead of a Paris summit planned for November or December of this year, in which they hope that other nations outside of the EU will agree to a new phase of the Kyoto climate accords - which also currently run until 2020. 
One of the most prominent of the aforementioned divisions was that between richer, greener nations and less wealthy countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels or on Russian gas. For example, Poland had previously threatened to veto a deal due to the fear that its heavily reliance on coal would make it too expensive to meet the targets.  Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria joined Poland in a Central and Eastern European group opposing the introduction of any legally binding renewable energy targets.  Another significant obstacle has been the existence of a natural gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia. In June, the EU pushed for a reopening of negotiations after Gazprom cut off its supply of natural gas to Ukraine.  Russia's insistence that Ukraine cover previous debts for natural gas supplies had been a point of conflict between the two sides, and posed a potential threat to the completion of the EU's gas deal, as Ukraine's pipelines also supply natural gas to much of Europe.  However, recent talks coinciding with the climate deal talks have led to an agreement, with Ukraine paying a total of $ 4.6 billion to Russia by March, including $3.1 billion for previous debts.  These two deals are could have significant implications with the Paris summit coming up at the end of 2014.
© Colin Epperson. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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