Pan-European energy efficiency policy adopted

Governments to reduce energy price subsidies by 2005, give more support to cogeneration

Over 50 European countries today agreed to promote measures to increase energy efficiency. Speaking at the fourth pan-European conference of environment ministers, which ended in Århus, Denmark today, Danish minister Svend Auken said the policy statement "sent a clear signal" to the global community that Europe will "take the lead" in energy efficiency. The final form of advisory guidelines accompanying the statement was fixed at negotiations earlier this year (ENDS Daily 10 March). Under the guidelines, signatory countries should review current practices surrounding energy markets and pricing systems to "encourage better energy use" and "reflect the environmental costs of energy production and use". Countries are to consider phasing out environmentally unfriendly price subsidies before 2005, as well as internalising external environmental costs in energy prices. They have also agreed to strengthen the promotion of cogeneration, or combined heat and power. Although the guidelines are not legally binding, one Danish delegate told ENDS Daily that the large number of signatory countries meant they will be politically significant. NGOs attending the Århus conference have criticised Canada and the USA for not signing the statement. The two countries argue that its requirements contradict a principle of the UN Kyoto protocol on climate change, which permits countries to reach environmental goals in accordance with national circumstances. Countries will report on progress at the next pan-European conference.

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