EU power firms plan voluntary climate action

Voluntary emissions cut programme should obviate need for regulations, says Eurelectric

European electricity companies took a first step towards creating a sector-wide voluntary programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. Eurelectric's "energy wisdom" programme is designed to show regulators that the power industry can come up with meaningful voluntary emissions reductions without regulatory pressure. "Our expectation is that the more industry shows it can deliver...the less need there will be for government intervention," said Eurelectric secretary general, Paul Bulteel.

Nevertheless, only a tiny absolute emissions cut is likely to be achieved by the sector by 2010, according to figures released separately today by Eurelectric. Largely due to a projected increase in electricity demand, and despite extra actions by the industry and its customers, sectoral carbon dioxide emissions might be shaved to 1.5% below their 1990 level by 2010, and 5.6% below by 2020, Eurelectric says.

Companies participating in the scheme will be expected to make long-term commitments to take measures yielding "significant and measurable improvements in energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions". Any emissions reductions will be certified by independent auditors. With the participation of the international power sector organisation Unipede, electricity companies in central and eastern Europe will also be able to participate.

Speaking in Brussels today, Mr Bulteel stressed that the electricity industry would oppose sectoral greenhouse gas reduction targets imposed by national governments or the EU. It would be difficult to differentiate electricity-linked emissions and emissions cuts through replacement by electricity of dirtier fuels, he said. Other sectors, and especially transport, should in any case be targeted if governments felt further policies were needed to curb emissions.

Eurelectric also released a position paper - drawn up with its North American and Japanese counterparts - on the forthcoming international climate change talks in Buenos Aires. The document calls for companies to be allowed to participate in emissions trading. John Scowcroft of Eurelectric said that an international trading system - which could be in place by 2008 - should not be a "bureaucratic monster" and that experimental national trading schemes should start before then to test the concept.

Follow Up:
Eurelectric, tel: +32 2 515 1000. References: "The Role of Electricity in Achieving a Decline in CO2 Emissions".

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