Two big announcements in European climate policy came Thursday. The European Union reached a provisional deal to increase its renewable energy targets, an important pillar of the bloc’s plans to fight climate change and end dependence on Russian fossil fuels. And the United Kingdom released its long-awaited climate strategy, promising “an energy revolution.”
Negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, which represents EU member states, agreed that by 2030, the 27-country bloc would commit to sourcing 42.5% of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar, with a potential top-up to 45%.
The European Union’s current target is for a 32% renewable energy share by 2030.
In 2021, the bloc got 22% of its energy from renewable sources, though the level varied significantly between countries. Sweden leads with a 63% renewable energy share, while in Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Ireland, renewable sources make up less than 13% of total energy use.
A rapid shift to renewable energy is crucial if the European Union is to meet its climate goals, including a legally binding aim to cut levels of planet-heating gases by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.
Renewable energy targets have gained significance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Union has vowed to end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels by 2027 and plans to do this mostly through locally produced, low-carbon energy.
Reaching the new goals will require massive investment in wind and solar farms, scaling up production of renewable gases, and reinforcing Europe’s power grids to integrate more clean energy.
The European Commission has said additional investments of 113 billion euros ($123 billion) in renewable energy and hydrogen infrastructure will be needed by 2030, if EU countries are to end their reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Thursday’s deal must be approved by the European Parliament and EU countries to become law, normally a formality.
The United Kingdom also announced its own climate strategy Thursday. The plan sets out a pathway for the nation to reach net zero — which means removing from the air at least as much planet-heating pollution as it emits.
The strategy focuses on clean energy technologies, and energy security in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
It includes support for offshore wind energy, electric vehicles, green hydrogen, nuclear technology, home insulation and home heat pumps.
The strategy also emphasizes carbon capture and storage, which traps and stores carbon pollution. While many scientists say this technology will be crucial for meeting climate goals, it has also been heavily criticized for allowing polluters to continue polluting, rather than cutting their emissions.
UK finance minister Jeremy Hunt said in a statement: “Transforming our energy system is no longer just about tackling climate change, it is also a matter of national security. To protect ourselves from future price spikes, we need to accelerate the move to cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy.”
The strategy announcement comes after a UK court ruled last year that the government had not adequately set out how it intended to reach net zero.
It also follows the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest climate investment in American history, which has kick-started a global green subsidies race.
Some have criticized the UK government’s new plans as weak. Pauline Chetcuti, head of policy at the non-profit Oxfam, said in a statement that they are “tinkering around the edges but are far off the mark for the scale of the challenge we face.”