The European Union has agreed on a legally-binding energy efficiency target after protracted negotiations. The new directive requires all 27 EU member states to collectively reduce their energy consumption by a minimum of 17 percent by 2020.

The new measures fall short of the original intended target of 20 percent after intense lobbying from a number of countries, including the UK, led to the compromised 17 percent target being adopted.

Speaking to the Politiken after the negotiations Danish Climate and Energy Minister, Marton Lidegaard said: ““It’s only 17 percent because that was possible to get. We fought like lions. We started at 13 percent, and now we have 17 percent, and that is actually something we are proud of.”

However, British environmental campaigners were furious with the role the UK played in “weakening the European Energy Efficiency Directive” as Friends of the Earth Campaigner, Dave Timms explained:  “The UK Government played a significant role in weakening the directive by opposing an overall binding energy saving target and insisting on loopholes so it could meet its obligation by claiming credit for old energy efficiency policies.

“Undermining European efforts to promote energy efficiency while proclaiming the benefits at home is both dishonest and damaging – especially from the self-proclaimed 'greenest Government ever'.

“Introducing ambitious binding energy saving policies and targets would hugely boost European efforts to cut energy bills, reduce our reliance on dirty gas and oil imports and create new jobs and growth.

“The measures in the new directive are a step forward but it falls short of the huge stride a strong treaty would have brought.”

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey responded to the claims in a written statement: “The UK played a central role in not only brokering a deal but also increasing its ambition.  Our experience of our own energy efficiency policies has helped ensure that the Directive promotes practical and cost-effective action that will deliver real savings – and that it strikes the right balance between prescription and the flexibility necessary to allow for national circumstances and for innovative policy approaches.

“The UK supported the move to ambitious binding energy saving targets throughout the negotiations and played a crucial role in defining this target so that progress can be clearly and effectively demonstrated. We have also worked hard to ensure that the target provides sufficient incentive for longer term measures that will continue to deliver into the future”.

Davey concluded: “I greatly welcome the agreement reached on the Energy Efficiency Directive and want to congratulate the Danish Presidency on their successful handling of a complex and rapidly moving negotiation.”