Hitting EU green energy goals 'would save billions, boost GDP'

Barbara Lewis
A wind turbine is seen near the village of Piansano, 90 km (60 miles) north of Rome, April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Hitting energy and environment targets for 2030 under discussion in the European Commission would save up to 35 billion euros ($47 billion) per year in health costs as air pollution declines, EU sources said.

It would also add an estimated 0.5 percent to gross domestic product, due mainly to lower oil and gas imports, they said.

The numbers are from a draft Commission assessment of the impact of 2030 goals expected to be announced early next year.

The Commission, the EU executive, said it does not comment on unpublished documents.

Policymakers are considering targeting a cut of around 40 percent in greenhouse gas emissions and raising the proportion of energy generated by renewables to 30 percent, EU sources have said on condition of anonymity.

Environmental campaigners say an emissions cut of 60 percent relative to 1990 levels is needed by 2030 to limit global warming to the 2 degrees Celsius level scientists say would prevent the worst effects of climate change.

That compares with an existing 2020 target of a 20 percent cut in emissions compared with 1990 levels, accompanied by two other goals - to increase renewables to 20 percent and energy savings of 20 percent versus business as usual.

The U.N.'s panel of climate scientists in September raised the probability that global warming is mainly man-made to 95 percent from the 90 percent it estimated in 2007, but also said the pace of temperature rises had slowed.


EU legislative proposals have to be accompanied by assessments of their impact that examine a range of scenarios.

The EU sources said none of the scenarios in the 2030 assessment includes an energy savings target, which environmental campaigners argue is the obvious way to meet EU goals of lower energy costs, better energy security and lower emissions.

But member states balked at the upfront cost of measures such as insulation to reduce energy use during a tough debate on an efficiency law last year.

The Commission's 2030 scenarios range from a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions with no other targets, to a greenhouse gas target of 40 percent plus a 30 percent renewables goal, and a greenhouse gas target of 45 percent combined with a renewables target of 35 percent.

While there are no efficiency targets, there are energy savings assumptions, ranging from 24 to 33 percent, saving up to between 11.1 billion and 34.5 billion euros per year in health care costs, the impact assessment found.

The estimated boost to annual gross domestic product is similar under each scenario at just over 0.5 percent.

Some governments and business have lobbied against deep emissions cuts, saying they are too costly. Environmentalists say costs have been exaggerated and benefits ignored.

($1 = 0.7402 euros)

(Editing by John Stonestreet)