This is the first step by the Commission in developing a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies. The Green Paper launches a public consultation on the content of the 2030 framework and on the future of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Europe.
The Commission also adopted a report assessing Member States' progress towards their 2020 renewable energy targets and reports on the sustainability of biofuels and bioliquids consumed in the EU.
Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy said: "We need to define our climate and energy policy framework for 2030 to ensure proper investment that will give us sustainable growth, affordable competitive energy prices and greater energy security. The new framework must be ambitious enough to meet the necessary long-term goal of cutting emissions by more than 80% by 2050."
Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said: ''Europe's dependence on foreign fossil fuels is growing every year, and means more expensive and unaffordable energy bills for Europeans. That is why we have decided that in Europe we want a low-carbon society for 2050. We have targets for 2020, but for most investors 2020 is around the corner. It's time to define the targets for 2030, to give certainty to investors.''
Energy efficiency campaigners have expressed concern that the EU’s Green Paper on 2030 climate targets largely fails to address the role that heat savings can play in reducing carbon emissions.
Heat is responsible for some 45% of Europe's final energy consumption, with huge losses arising from inefficiency.
In relation to the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive, the Green Paper notes that "delays and incomplete national measures to implement this directive risk undermining the necessary contribution of the buildings sector towards lower GHG emissions and reduced energy consumption."
In its Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, the IEA said that “heating and cooling remain neglected areas of energy policy and technology, and their decarbonisation is a fundamental element towards a low carbon economy.”
While the 27 EU member states are currently on track to achieve the 2020 renewable energy goal, many risk falling behind in the coming years without additional efforts, the European Commission said.
"There are reasons for concern about future progress: the transposition of the directive has been slower than wished, also due to the current economic crisis in Europe," the Commission said in a statement.
The EU currently has three 2020 climate policy goals: to cut carbon emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels, increase renewables to 20% and improve energy savings by 20%.
It is currently on course to meet the first two targets - which are legally binding - but not the non-binding energy efficiency goal.
Every two years the European Commission publishes a Renewable Energy Progress Report, as required in the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive. The report assesses Member States' progress in the promotion and use of renewable energy towards the 2020 renewable energy targets. The report also describes the overall renewable energy policy developments in each Member State and their compliance with the measures outlined in the Directive and the National Renewable Energy Action Plans.
2010 figures indicate that the EU as a whole is on its trajectory towards the 2020 targets with a renewable energy share of 12.7%, and the majority of Member States had already reached their 2011/2012 interim targets set in the Directive. However, as the trajectory grows steeper towards the end, more efforts will still be needed from the Member States in order to reach the 2020 targets.
The Commission report also covers the sustainability of biofuels and bioliquids consumed in the EU and the impacts of this consumption. Member States' implementation of the biofuels scheme is considered too slow.
Despite the strong growth in the onshore wind industry of recent years, onshore wind production may fall short of the planned 354 TWh. The Commission says that further efforts will be needed to reinforce measures and improve infrastructure, or only an estimated 210 TWh might be achieved.
Total wind generation (including offshore) may therefore fall short of expectations. Whereas Member State plans foresee wind generation of almost 500 TWh, current trends point to the risk of achieving only half of this level.
The report finds that UK has progressed from 1.3% renewables share to 3.3% in 2020, still short of its inteim 4% target - and a long way to go before reaching the 15% share to which UK is committed for 2020.
For the EU as a whole, the RES share has increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 12.7% in 2010. The fact that EU is on target to more than meet its 2020 objectives is attributable maninly to some member states which have, unlike UK exceeded their targets. Sweden for instance, is already above its 49% target for 2020, and Germany, at 12% RES, is well ahead of its interim target.
Green paper: ec.europa.eu
EurActiv "energy efficiency campaigners mourn missing heat target": www.euractiv.com
EurActiv "debate rages": www.euractiv.com
EurActiv "Commission urges action to meet renewable energy targets": www.euractiv.com
Commission progress reports on renewable energy targets: ec.europa.eu