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Ministers 'moving closer' to MEPs on green buildings

Energy efficiency, home

EU energy ministers meeting in Sweden on Thursday moved "closer to the European Parliament" on plans to revise the energy performance of buildings directive, Swedish energy minister Maud Olofsson told ENDS.

Governments still have a number of objections to amendments adopted by MEPs in April but they "understand that we have to negotiate and find common solutions," Ms Olofsson said on Friday. Some ministers said too much regulation on building refurbishment could discourage renovation.

The minister said the presidency of the EU was sympathetic to these concerns because Sweden is generally cautious about too much regulation from Brussels. There are still differences between member states regarding the draft revised green building law, she added.

Member states have raised doubts over several key elements of the commission's proposal, and have objected to the "overly ambitious and unrealistic" amendments adopted by MEPs (EE 03/07/09). But the Swedish EU presidency is aiming to reach an agreement with the European Parliament at a ministerial meeting on 7 December.

On Friday, the Swedish EU presidency called on environment and energy ministers to work closely with their finance colleagues to develop an eco-efficient economy that creates wealth while using less resources and generating less pollution.

Swedish environment minister Andreas Carlgren said Europe would risk losing its first-mover advantage if it did not make greater efforts to build an eco-efficient economy. Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas warned the EU was not investing as much in this area as some of its competitors. For example, China has allocated around 34% of its stimulus package to eco-efficiency related measures.

Sweden said national carbon taxes were one way of moving towards an eco-efficient economy. Sweden introduced a carbon tax in 1990 and has since decreased its CO2 emissions by 9% while seeing GDP increase by 48%, according to the energy ministry.

Mr Dimas said he supported carbon taxes at the national level in sectors not covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS), for example taxes on cars that are not energy-efficient. An EU-wide carbon tax would be difficult to introduce because of a requirement for unanimous approval in the Council of Ministers, he added.

The Swedish presidency said it will start a discussion on the coordination of carbon taxes at the national level at the informal meeting of finance ministers in September. The EU executive is considering introducing a carbon element to the taxation of heating and motor fuels in a proposal to revise the EU energy taxation directive (EE 15/05/09).

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