EU Energy Package Too Feeble to Fight Climate Change
10 Jan 2007
European Commission favours dirty energy over renewables, contradicting its own findings on the best way forward
The European Commission's Energy Package, published today, is largely "good news for the dirty energy industry and bad news for people and the planet", according to Friends of the Earth.
Ignoring its own scientific and economic analysis, the Commission proposes to stick to a business-as-usual energy policy, instead of making a paradigm shift to renewable energies and energy efficiency. The plan aims at improving the functioning of the internal energy markets, but leaves billions of Euros of subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy untouched and fails to address the huge external costs to society of dirty energy. 
Jan Kowalzig, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU Energy Package should create a vision for sustainable energy in Europe, based on renewable energies and highly efficient production and consumption of energy. Instead, the European Commission plans for energy policy in Europe to remain dominated by dirty fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power."
On renewable energy, the European Commission has set only a weak overall target of meeting 20 percent of Europe's primary energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 - lower than what is needed to achieve the necessary level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions cuts and lower than what is easily possible. And the 20 percent is not broken down into sector-specific targets, thus missing an opportunity to trigger simultaneous development in all areas. The European Commission itself acknowledges that a lack of sector-specific targets for electricity or for heating and cooling will weaken security of businesses when planning investments in these sectors. 
Analysis in the Energy Package concludes that the industrialised countries of the world should reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Yet, the European Commission suggests that, unilaterally, the EU should for now only adopt a target of 20 percent for itself. An EU unilateral target of only 20 percent would not be enough to guarantee the EU's own objective to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, and would indicate to the rest of the world that the EU is barely serious about tackling the climate crisis. 
Jan Kowalzig continued: "Scientific findings show that it simply won't be enough for the EU to only reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. If EU governments confirm a target below 30 percent at the upcoming EU Summit, it will be a punch in the face for everyone already suffering from floods or droughts."
"The EU has to realise that it can't make its usual political bargains when it is dealing with nature."
Friends of the Earth is also disappointed in the European Commission's old fashioned approach to securing energy supply. Instead of reducing dependence on fossil fuels by cutting energy waste, the EU Energy Package sets out to ensure long-term imports of oil and gas into the EU. Currently, 70 percent of oil imports from outside the EU are consumed in the transport sector and 50 percent of gas imports are used in the buildings sector. Securing long-term energy supply must start with reducing the appalling waste of energy in these two sectors.
Friends of the Earth has expressed alarm that the European Commission accepts that nuclear power is to play a role in Europe's greenhouse gas reduction scenarios, without offering a solution to its unsolved problems: how to treat and store waste for thousands of years, the risk of serious accidents, the proliferation of nuclear weapon material and how to secure nuclear plants against terrorist attacks. Friends of the Earth Europe reiterates that nuclear power is far more expensive than alternative ways to reduce emissions. Studies show that every Euro spent on new nuclear power could save ten times more emissions if it was invested in energy conservation measures - thus also securing energy supply ten times cheaper. 
 The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimated that every year conventional energy companies externalise hidden costs of around €40-70 billion to society, e.g. in the form of health costs from air pollution. These costs should be internalised, e.g. through a dirty fuel tax, using revenues to support renewable energy and efficiency programmes. See http://www.eea.europa.eu/
 The EC's own impact assessment of the proposed "Renewable Energy Roadmap" concludes that failing to agree sector-specific targets will delay technological development and commercial deployment of renewable energies and increase climate change abatement costs in the long-term. It notes that "a single broad target is too unfocused and would fail to provide sufficient guidance and certainty to businesses operating in specific sector of the market." See 'Renewable Energy Roadmap - Impact Assessment', SEC (2006) 1719.
 Recent science suggests that concentration levels of carbon dioxide must peak below 500 ppm (parts per million) and then return below 400ppm. In contrast, a concentration of 450ppm has a 50 percent chance of exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius threshold. See also Meeting the EU 2 degrees Celsius climate target: global and regional emission implications; Michel den Elzen and Malte Meinshausen; available at http://www.mnp.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/728001031.pdf
 The high costs of nuclear power result from not only the costs of constructing and operating the plant, but also waste treatment and storage for thousands of years and the costs of decommissioning the plant at the end of its life-span. See "Nuclear power: economics and climate protection potential": Rocky Mountains Institute; January 2006; available at http://www.rmi.org