Eurofer warns EU not to be ‘over-ambitious’ on carbon emissions targets

European steel association Eurofer has warned the European Union against over-ambitious measures in its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

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“The EU should not be overambitious if no one else on the planet is following,” Eurofer told Steel First on Thursday March 6, adding that future targets should be decided after 2015.

Eurofer’s comments to Steel First came in response to a session of the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels on March 4.

A group of energy ministers from smaller EU countries told the council that they would not sacrifice steelmaking competitiveness to meet proposed EU 2030 carbon emissions targets.

The group of ministers – from countries including Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic – told the council that January’s proposal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030 was unrealistic.

“I see that there are a number of countries in favour of safeguarding our competitiveness,” a Eurofer spokesperson told Steel First in response to the ministers’ declarations.

Stay competitive’
At the same meeting, however, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary told the council that the EU “can be ambitious and remain competitive”.

French energy minister Philippe Martin also said that “the competitiveness of Europe’s energy-intensive industries could be maintained through the reform of the EU’s Emissions Trading System [ETS], allowing more free emissions permits to be allocated to energy-intensive industries”.

In response, Eurofer’s spokesperson told Steel First that a number of factors affecting Europe’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions could harm the steel industry.

“Our major problem is the Emissions Trading Scheme because, even without an overall greenhouse gas target for 2030, it will continue to reduce emissions allowed to be emitted by industry by 1.74% per year,” the spokesman said.

“This would mean 37% for steel compared with 2005 levels, and between 55% and 60% compared with 1990 levels,” he added.

The steel sector, Eurofer explained, has already reduced its emissions since 1970 by about 50%, and by 25% since 1990.

“Technically and economically, only a further 10% maximum between 2010 and 2030 is possible with current technologies in Europe,” the spokesman said.

Carbon leakage
Major problems also face those sectors at risk of carbon leakage, which Eurofer explained “need to have certainty that they receive free allocation at the level of the needs of the most efficient installations, and are fully compensated, EU-wide, from the CO2 costs passed through by the power sector”.

This must happen “until a global agreement on climate change secures a global level playing field for steel”, Eurofer added.

“The energy cost gap for industry between the EU and other countries must not be widened by the policy,” the Eurofer spokesperson concluded.

EU prime ministers and presidents are expected to discuss the proposed 2030 targets in their summit European Council meeting in Brussels on March 20-21 this year.