Faced with electricity prices at least twice as expensive as those in the United States’ and the subsequently combined crises of business uncompetitiveness and ongoing economic lethargy, Europe has been considering a retrenchment on their once-grand climate-change ambitions for some months now — and it looks like they’ve finally hammered out a definite approach. They’re framing it as more of an acknowledgement of economic reality than a backtrack, and insist that they still have very tangible goals to which they’re determinedly sticking… but environmentalist groups are nevertheless most displeased by the announcements. Via the NYT:

On Wednesday, the European Union proposed an end to binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020. Instead, it substituted an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce.

It also decided against proposing laws on environmental damage and safety during the extraction of shale gas by a controversial drilling process known as fracking. It opted instead for a series of minimum principles it said it would monitor.

Europe pressed ahead on other fronts, aiming for a cut of 40 percent in Europe’s carbon emissions by 2030, double the current target of 20 percent by 2020. Officials said the new proposals were not evidence of diminished commitment to environmental discipline but reflected the complicated reality of bringing the 28 countries of the European Union together behind a policy. …

Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, described the proposals as “totally inadequate” and “off the radar of what climate science tells us to do in Europe to avoid climate catastrophe.” …

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, defended the new proposals as a hard-fought compromise and proof that it “is possible to make a marriage between industry and climate action.”

The European Commission’s proposals still have to be approved by the European Parliament and member states, but with what’s been happening in Germany and what was supposed to be their Energiewende revolution, I think we’re looking at a very probable climbdown from their erstwhile cost-defying loftiness.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday urged her cabinet to stop bickering and join her in backing Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s plan to reduce financial support for renewable energy when the ministers discuss policies for the coming year at a closed-door meeting.

Germany is struggling with rising energy costs as it phases out nuclear power and tries to shift to more renewable energy.

In a bid to stem these rising costs in the coming years, Mr. Gabriel has proposed cutting the average subsidy for wind, solar and other renewable power sources.

German and European utilities complain their profits have plunged because subsidized renewables are displacing their conventional power plants, which are still needed as backups.