The EU persuaded the world on renewables, can it now persuade its own Member States?

Delivery on its own goals is the very least the EU must do to uphold the COP28 agreement and get the world off fossil fuels.

Dr Chris Rosslowe

Senior Energy & Climate Data Analyst

15 December 2023 | 3 min read

Outcomes of the recently concluded COP28 met with mixed reactions. Countries failed to formally acknowledge that fossil fuel phase out is needed (the best that could be agreed was a ‘transition away’). But there were signs of progress. The first ever mention of fossil fuels is undoubtedly a landmark moment, and the stocktake plainly states the two most important actions to quickly reduce fossil fuels: triple renewables and double energy efficiency improvements globally by 2030.

Consensus on this at the global level is hugely significant. Based on the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, spearheaded politically by the EU, these actions make concrete what is needed to actually deliver emissions cuts. 

The EU was able to champion this deal because recent history shows the bloc’s commitment to this pathway. In response to the gas crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU issued the REPowerEU plan, which identifies renewables and energy efficiency as the primary tools to reduce fossil fuel dependency. 

Consequently, this year the EU raised its renewable energy goal to 42.5% (up from 32% set in 2018), and targeted a 11.7% reduction in energy demand by 2030. While this is still not enough to put Europe on a path for 1.5C, the demonstration of momentum enabled the EU to push for a parallel approach globally.

As the spotlight turns away from Dubai, it is now on every nation to deliver on what was agreed. That starts with the 130 signatories of the pledge on renewables and efficiency, with particular pressure on the EU to show leadership. 

What then are the EU’s measures of success? A decarbonised power system is at the heart of the EU’s REPowerEU plan. According to the European Commission, that means growing wind power to 500 GW (from 205 GW in 2022) and solar power to 750 GWdc (from 207 GW in 2022) by 2030. By most measures, these are large changes to Europe’s power system in a short time. In combination with reducing overall energy demand, that should be enough to reach 42.5% renewable energy and 72% renewable electricity by 2030.

The question of whether this is a fair contribution from the EU towards the tripling goal depends on multiple factors, such as historical emissions, renewables progress to date and access to financing. But one thing is for sure: the REPowerEU plan is the very least that the EU, and its 27 Member States, need to deliver by 2030 to honour the deal that it helped broker. Outside its borders, it will be crucial to transfer technology and knowledge and help to finance the energy transitions of emerging economies, like the recent Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) in Indonesia, South Africa and Viet Nam.

After a flurry of new EU legislation in 2023, implementation is now the name of the game. Helpfully, the EU’s plans for an accelerated energy transition are about to get their first major reality check. All 27 Member States are in the process of producing new National Energy and Climate Plans, which will form the basis of the EU’s next Nationally Determined Contribution due in 2025. These plans will ultimately be what spurs delivery at the national level, setting out targets on renewables and efficiency, as well as supporting measures. 

Going by the 24 available draft plans, Member States look likely to fall short. The power sector is probably the nearest to being aligned with EU goals, but wind power is still a combined 50 GW short and solar power at least 80 GW short of REPowerEU. Details on renewable plans in other sectors are sparse, but analysis of the available data points to inadequate cuts in transport and buildings emissions. Energy efficiency improvements, where specified, are also insufficient for the new EU ambition. 

The encouraging news is that some member states are showing leadership, and much more can be done in others. Seven are officially targeting fully decarbonised or renewable power by 2035 or earlier, in line with what the IEA’s net zero pathway requires of advanced economies. 

National targets have leapt forward, correcting for the low ambition of past governments who underestimated the potential role of renewables. In the last four years, EU countries wind and solar targets for 2030 increased overall by 45% and 70% respectively. 

This acceleration is reflected on the ground too. Solar power was deployed at record scale in Europe in 2023, and the solar industry estimates that 13 countries will achieve their latest 2030 solar targets already by 2027. The offshore wind sector is also receiving substantial political support. Countries around Europe’s North Seas have pledged to deliver 150 GW by 2030, from around 30 GW in 2022.

How far this national action goes will be determined in June, when Member States must submit their final plans to the EU. Between now and then, the EU must do everything in its power to produce strong national plans built around  renewables and efficiency. This is a critical test, not only of progress towards EU goals, but of whether this group of 27 developed countries plans to uphold its end of the COP28 bargain. The EU has been a frontrunner in clean energy, despite some Member States dragging their feet, but the rest of the world just officially joined the race. 

If the EU fails to deliver, at best it will fall behind, and at worst it could kill the new global consensus on renewables and efficiency that it fought so hard to win.

Supporting Material


In a previous version of this page we stated that the REPowerEU target for renewables share in electricity generation is 69%. This figure in fact refers to share of consumption. REPowerEU actually targets a 72% share of renewables in electricity generation. The text of this page has been updated accordingly.