Energy has become a core issue for the European Union. However, the EU does not have an exclusive competence in this field. Making it a shared competence in the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 was a bold move forward, but it remains a natural field of conflict between Member States and many EU institutions.
Member States have the right to determine their own energy mix, but the European Commission has the competence to elaborate the EU’s sustainable energy and climate policy. As the discussions about the completion of the internal energy market and the Energy Union show, the national sovereign right to decide about the energy mix remains a much valued asset. But even the most reluctant member states see the benefits of bundling competences and joining hands with their neighbors, or to even give a mandate to the European Commission to act on their behalf, when it comes to negotiating at the international level. This becomes even more important against the backdrop of energy security and energy independence from unreliable suppliers. On the global stage, the EU’s former front runner role as an ambitious climate union has lost some of its sheen.
In light of the recent decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the pressure is on for Europe to retake its international leadership role in formulating sustainable climate and energy policy.
Internally, the EU has pushed things forward: the recent years saw the EU making clear commitments through a number of important legislations on renewables and energy efficiency measures, or the long-term energy policy vision energy roadmap 2050. At the same time, the EU depends on its member states’ ambitions and the last years have seen a fragmentation of diverging national energy interests. While some member states are fully engaged in a clean energy transition, a nuclear phase-out and reductions in CO2 emissions, others explore unconventional resources, such as shale gas or heavily subsidize risky technologies, such as nuclear power.
Where do the EU and its member states stand when it comes to the concrete implementation of climate and energy objectives? The energy roadmap 2050 and the “Clean Energy Package for All Europeans” aim to create a low-carbon European economy pathway, while improving Europe’s competitiveness and security of supply.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, interim milestones for 2030 are currently being negotiated. However, more efforts will be needed to reach beyond the 2030 targets that are not yet in line with what the European Union committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement. The current tough political negotiations around the lowest common denominator in European energy and climate policy will likely result in agreement of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 40 percent, increasing the share of renewable energy to at least 27 percent and increasing energy efficiency by at least 27 percent. It is still a long winding road to achieve the EU’s low-carbon economy goals for and beyond 2050. Stay tuned.