By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU policymakers have bowed to industry concerns about the cost of environment policy without even exploring the potential for deeper emissions cuts, green energy groups said in a letter to the European Commission.
The Commission, the EU executive, is expected to unveil in January its vision on 2030 energy and environment policy to follow 2020 goals on cutting carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency and increasing use of renewable power.
If the European Union succeeds in agreeing a 2030 carbon-cutting goal, it would be the first major bloc to do so ahead of a new global deal on climate change expected in 2015.
In their letter to Commission Secretary-General Catherine Day dated November 21, three umbrella groups representing scores of EU businesses - the Coalition for Energy Savings, the European Renewable Energy Council and the Climate Action Network - argue the Commission's assessment of the impact of 2030 goals "falls short of the necessary standards".
In particular, the letter says the assessment does not include a wide enough range of options and puts politics before scientific analysis.
"We found the lack of a greenhouse gas reduction scenario of more than 45 percent to be inexplicable when a broad range of qualified stakeholders, including governments, are calling for a reduction of 50 percent, 55 percent and more," the letter seen by Reuters says.
Britain, for instance, has called for a 50 percent goal, although 10 percent of this could come from offsets bought on the global market, leaving only 40 percent from harder-to-achieve domestic cuts.
EU sources have said the policy document in January is likely to settle on a carbon-cutting goal of 40 percent, which would be debated by the bloc's leaders at a summit in March.
That could be accompanied by a goal to get 30 percent of energy from renewable sources, but probably at an EU-wide level, rather than through binding national targets, leaving some nations to do more and others less.
The Commission has said it is premature to agree on another energy-savings goal after difficult negotiations last year on enforcing the existing target of a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency compared with business as usual.
Campaigners say a glaring example of the Commission closing its mind to deeper emissions-cutting scenarios is a paragraph in a draft seen by Reuters stating renewable scenarios of more than 35 percent were not analyzed "in full detail" because they would mean a more than 45 percent cut in emissions or clashed, for instance, with some member states' plans on nuclear energy.
The Commission is seeking to balance the environmentalists' concerns with those of industry and of some governments worried about the impact on competitiveness of tougher environmental goals.
The Commission does not comment on unpublished documents.
The groups said their letter had not yet received a reply.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)