Renewable energy and gas emissions

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Negotiations over landmark targets for greenhouse gas emissions in Europe are continuing , just hours before their planned publication on Wednesday.

At stake is whether the EU opts for a 35% or 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, and whether the block sets a firm target for renewable energy generation.

The UK government is strongly opposed to a target for renewable energy generation, and its opposition has led to the impasse.

The European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, is now poised to intervene in the row, potentially ditching plans for a renewable energy target in order to seal a deal on emissions.

The proposal for a 2030 target of a 40% cut in emissions has been in the works for two years and several studies have shown that the EU could meet the target without economic difficulty.

At least five commissioners are still arguing in favour of an emissions cut of only 35%. But as the biggest economies within the EU – including Germany, France and the UK – are all agreed that the 40% target should be accepted, the likelihood is that it will go ahead.

The bloc is already on track to exceed its current target of cutting emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020, and will have probably reduced emissions to 25% by then.

The main row is now over the renewables element of the package, supported by larger member states including Germany, France and Italy, but which Barroso is considering watering down or dropping to broker a compromise.

Governments around the world have committed to publish pledges within the next year on their greenhouse gas emissions cuts beyond 2020, when current commitments expire, in preparation for a global conference on climate change in Paris in 2015.

At the Paris meeting, governments are expected to forge a fresh global agreement on climate change, binding both developed and developing countries to cut emissions in order to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

The commission proposals have reached stalemate at this late stage in part because of the UK's insistence that there should be no renewable energy target for 2030.

The current EU targets include a goal of producing a fifth of energy from renewable sources by 2020, an aim that is credited with assisting the substantial growth in clean energy across the bloc. Many countries want a similar – but more stringent – goal to be included in the 2030 climate and energy package.

Ed Davey, the UK's Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, has claimed that his opposition to a 2030 renewables goal was "getting traction" among other member states, although he could only name Spain. The Spanish government did not reply to a request for comment.

The countries signing the letter in favour of a renewable energy target included Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Portugal as well as Germany, France and Italy. The Lib Dems have previously strongly supported a renewable energy target, and their current stance has been criticised by green campaigners.

The UK government's opposition to a renewables target, is understood to be the result of a compromise within the governing coalition over climate policy.

It is understood that the Treasury wants to be able to include nuclear power and fears that a renewable energy target would mean less investment in its favoured alternative, shale gas.

Green MEPs and environmental campaigners are arguing in favour of a much stronger target on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a strong renewable energy goal.