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Ukraine crisis will test EU green pledges

Ministers from European Union countries will meet this week to attempt to agree on joint plans to fight climate change, with some diplomats saying countries under economic pressure might water down some of the most ambitious targets proposed by Brussels.

The previously scheduled meeting by EU energy ministers will also give them a chance to discuss emergency plans to reduce gas demand, which Brussels will draw up in coming weeks in case of further cuts in supply from Russia.

The energy ministers meeting on Monday, and environment ministers meeting the following day, are expected to agree on common positions on proposed laws to meet a 2030 target to cut net emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels. The laws would expand renewable energy, revamp the EU carbon market and ban sales of new cars running on fossil fuels from 2035.

Brussels says the energy supply crisis this year caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means the 27 EU countries should move even faster to wean themselves off fossil fuels. But the threat of an economic slump from surging energy prices has also made some countries more cautious about the swift change they fear might bring more disruption.

Energy ministers are expected to back targets proposed by the EU Commission last year to get 40 per cent of energy from renewable sources and cut energy consumption 9 per cent against expected levels by 2030.

Brussels hiked those goals to 45 per cent and 13 per cent last month, in a bid to speed up the end of countries’ reliance on imported – and increasingly expensive – fossil fuels. Ministers are expected to approve the original proposals, and put off considering the upgraded versions until later this year when they negotiate the final laws with the EU parliament.

Renewables accounted for around 22 per cent of EU energy in 2020.

Countries are considering weakening other parts of the laws, according to deals drafted ahead of the ministers’ meeting seen by Reuters.

The draft agreements would make some targets voluntary rather than legally binding, including a target to reduce primary energy consumption and a target for renewables to account for 2.6 per cent of transport fuels by 2030.

Countries are also considering lowering a target for half of hydrogen used by industry to come from renewable sources by 2030.

Some diplomats raised concerns that the changes, if approved, would cause the EU to miss its climate goals. But others said they expected countries to preserve the core elements needed to meet emissions targets.

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