EU urged to take strong climate measures

Environmental groups, green energy firms, issue joint plea for strengthened polices

A coalition of European environmental groups plus renewable energy and energy conservation industries has called on the EU to greatly strengthen its policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition estimates that the measures it proposes could cut one-third off the EU's 1990 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2010, greatly exceeding the Union's Kyoto protocol commitment of an 8% reduction.

Issued on Friday, the groups' proposals for common and coordinated EU policies and measures responds to the European Commission's March proposal for a European climate change programme (ECCP) (ENDS Daily 8 March). This will not be effective without firmer action, they say, and the EU should anyway be thinking now about how to go beyond the Kyoto target.

The main elements are the following:

* The draft EU directive on renewable energy should be strengthened by making indicative national renewables targets mandatory and by adding requirements in the heat and transport sectors. Even without these new elements, the directive could save up to 200m tonnes of CO2 by 2010, the groups say.

* The EU should pass a new law to enforce national legislation on buildings energy efficiency, in particular by requiring retrofitting of existing buildings and establishing tough standards for new buildings. The potential CO2 savings are put at 300m tonnes.

* Efficiency standards for appliances, as well as energy labelling schemes, should evolve with best available technologies, the groups say. They estimate the potential CO2 emissions gain to be 90m tonnes.

* A current EU target of doubling cogenerated heat and power to 18% of electricity consumption by 2010 should be made binding through a new directive. Potential CO2 savings are estimated at 150m tonnes.

* New controls on power stations should limit to 20 years the lifetime of any installation with an efficiency lower than 45% and CO2 emissions higher than 400g per kilowatt hour of electricity. CO2 savings are estimated at up to 100m tonnes.

* Mandatory EU-wide benchmarking technologies should be introduced for heavy industries to force 2% annual improvements in energy efficiency. This would save an extra 100m tonnes of CO2, the groups say.

* Environmental pricing should be introduced in European transport markets, including a European kilometre charge for heavy goods vehicles and an EU framework for urban road pricing, plus greater investment in public transport and alternative fuels. Estimated emission savings are 100-200m tonnes of CO2.

Specific policies and measures like these should be the main focus of the EU's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the coalition argues. Policies that fail to yield real reductions in emissions or are uncertain should be excluded, it says, specifically raising concerns over geological carbon dioxide injection and the 1998 voluntary commitment by carmakers to reduce average CO2 emissions. Emissions trading has a role to play, but should not be the ECCP's main thrust. A "clear and stringent" legal framework is advocated for any voluntary agreements aimed at meeting climate objectives.

Overall, the groups say, the scope for cutting emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy measures "shows clearly that neither nuclear power nor plant trees [as carbon sinks] are needed for CO2 cuts in Europe".

Follow Up:
WWF European policy office, tel: +32 2 743 8818; E5, tel: +32 644 2888. See also the joint statement, including a list of backers.

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