EU ponders energy-environment integration

Commission paper presented for Vienna summit stresses role of voluntary agreements

Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis has renewed his commitment to a "greener energy policy" promoting renewable energy sources and energy saving as a priority. He was commenting in the introduction to a Commission communication published today, which sets out how the EU can integrate environmental objectives into energy policies.

The document responds to a call from EU heads of state who agreed to work to integrate environmental considerations into other policy areas at the Cardiff summit earlier this year (ENDS Daily 17 June). It will contribute to follow-up discussions on policy integration at the second EU summit of 1998 in Vienna in December.

Mr Papoutsis said: "We have to be more environmentally friendly in the way we produce and use energy if we are to respond to the challenge of global climate change as well as local problems." "Substantial measures" are required, he went on.

The communication summarises existing EU energy initiatives to promote less environmentally harmful energy production. These include a Commission communication on cogeneration of heat and power (ENDS Daily 16 October 1997) and a white paper on renewable energy (ENDS Daily 21 November 1997). The Commission intends to follow up the latter with a draft directive to facilitate the development of renewables within the internal electricity market, to be published before the end of the year.

The communication also strengthens other recent indications of a growing interest in the Commission in achieving environmental aims through voluntary agreements with industry. The Commission, it says, will "give priority to developing contacts with interested energy sectors...in order to adopt environmental agreements at an appropriate level".

Taxation of energy, which is seen by many companies as the other side of the coin from voluntary agreements, is also recommended by the communication. Action should be taken on a Commission proposal for EU-wide system of minimum excise duties on energy products which has yet to make any significant progress through the Council of Ministers since its publication four years ago.

The proposal would be "an important first step" in using tax as an instrument to reach environmental objectives, the paper says. It would also help to internalise the external environmental costs of energy into the price paid by the consumer. Internalising costs is "an important means to achieve higher efficiencies," says the communication, and will be increasingly important in a liberalised energy market.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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