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Press release

A cleaner, greener future for EU energy policy?

Energy - 14-12-2006 - 13:10
Plenary sessions
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The European Parliament says there should be binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and on increasing the use of renewable energy sources. These views are set out in a wide ranging report on the Commission's energy strategy proposals, adopted by a large majority on Thursday.

In its report, drawn up by Eluned Morgan (PES, UK), adopted with a large majority, Parliament  welcomes the Commission's green paper on a European strategy for sustainable, competitive and secure energy, but stresses that changing conditions in the broader global energy market need to be taken into account. MEPs want a systematic approach considering production, distribution and consumption in order to develop a policy which secures affordable energy.
A binding CO2 target for 2020 and changes in Emissions Trading Scheme
To tackle climate change, MEPs say EU leaders should agree within the next year on a binding CO2 target for 2020 and an indicative one for 2050. They say the existing Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) needs to be changed, to include a move towards auctioning or benchmarking based on output - and also to bring in further emitting sectors including all types of freight transport.
Energy Efficiency to be a priority across the board
The report asks the Council and Commission to make the EU the most energy efficient economy in the world by 2020 and to set energy efficiency measures as cross-cutting priority for all EU policy areas. It supports an EU target for energy efficiency improvements of at least 20 per cent by 2020.  MEPs call for an EU strategy on transport energy use, aiming at the phasing out of fossil fuel, a reduction in oil dependency and the gradual introduction of  clean energy.
Targets for renewables supported - nuclear power is up to Member States
In order to help diversify energy sources, the House says the EU needs a stable long-term policy framework, with  binding sectoral targets for renewables to reach 25 per cent in primary energy by 2020 - and a route map to reach 50 per cent by 2040.  Parliament recognises the role that nuclear energy plays in some Member States as part of the energy mix and as a way of avoiding CO2 emissions, but says decisions on the future of nuclear power must be taken by the Member States individually.
Consumers at the centre of energy policies
MEPs stress that consumers must be placed at the centre of all future energy policies and that energy poverty should feature more clearly in the Commission's proposals. Consumers should have easy access to price and choice information, to an easy method of switching energy provider and a right to be heard by the regulators in each Member State.
EU should speak with one voice with third countries
Parliament says a common stance vis-à-vis third countries is needed to increase the EU's ability to negotiate with energy producing and consuming countries. The Commissioner responsible for energy should, say MEPs, work to a well defined mandate with a long-term energy planning vision. MEPs urge the Commission and the Member States to take very seriously the real danger of a deficit in gas supplies from Russia after 2010.  They insist on the ratification of the Transit Protocol and the Energy Charter Treaty, which are instrumental in ensuring much needed foreign investment in Russia’s energy infrastructure and to assure sufficient gas supply to the EU.
Nuclear Safety and Security Assistance
The European Parliament adopted a report under the consultation procedure on a proposed regulation establishing an Instrument for Nuclear Safety and Security Assistance. The proposed Regulation is aimed at supporting efforts to enhance nuclear safety, radiation protection and the application of efficient and effective safeguards of nuclear materials in third countries. The substance of the proposal is to provide financial, economic and technical assistance complementary to any assistance that is normally provided for under the other external cooperation instruments for the years 2007 - 2013.
In the report by Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL), adopted with a large majority, the Parliament adopted a number of non-binding amendments, where is recommended to the Council that "priority should be given to nuclear installations and activities which are likely to have significant effects on the Member States."
MEPs underline the importance of the "polluter pays" principle.  The financial instrument should not be used "for paying taxes, customs duties or other fiscal charges in beneficiary countries".  Considering that the large amounts of money involved and the mediocre past record of nuclear assistance programs in the East, MEPs reinforced the need for more frequent reporting by the Commission to the EP.
Community assistance under this regulation shall be implemented on the basis of multi-annual strategy papers and indicative programmes and shall be established for a period of up to seven years. They shall set out the Community’s strategy for the provision of assistance under this Regulation, having regard to the needs of the countries concerned, the Community’s priorities, the international situation and the activities of the main partners.
The financial, economic and technical assistance provided under this Regulation shall be complementary to any assistance that is provided by the European Community under the Humanitarian Aid instrument, the Pre-accession instrument, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership instrument, the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation instrument, and the instrument for Stability.
Implementing biomass as an alternative font of energy
The importance of developing the investigation and the application of biomass and biofuels to become one of the most important sources of energy in the EU in the future is in the centre of the report by Werner LANGEN (EPP-ED, DE), adopted by the European Parliament.  Members urge the Commission to work for a European market for biomass and call the Members States to eliminate barriers inside and between them.
Biomass can be an alternative font of energy in Europe and can reduce dependence on imports and fossil fuels.  An increased use of biomass could make a contribution to the main objectives of energy policy: security of supply, competitiveness and environmental sustainability.  Its use in heating and cooling, transport and electricity generation assures a noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas emission. Actuality the EU uses 4% of its energy needs from biomass. The objectives settled for the use of renewable energies in the EU are 12% in 2010 made up of a share of 21% for the electricity sector and  of 5.75% for biofuels.
Members underline the importance of implementation of the cost-effective and sustainable production and use of biomass. They also ask the Commission "to introduce a mandatory and comprehensive certification scheme allowing sustainable production of biofuels at all stages, including standards for the cultivation and processing phases as well as for the overall life-cycle greenhouse gas balance, applicable to biofuels both produced within, and imported into, the European Union".
Member States are called upon to "promote the use of biofuels through the taxation and excise system so as to make the production and use of biofuels more attractive". The committee expects them "to come up with investment incentives for the production and use of biomass and biofuels that are the most efficient from a climatic point of view and compatible with structural and agricultural policy rules taking particular account of environmentally-compatible, regionally-adapted and traditional varieties; believes that such incentive schemes must under no circumstances lead to the replacement of sustainable local food production".
Given the size of the wood market and the potential uses available, the wood biomass is seen by members as an appropriated resource, but they underline that the market shortages an the rising prices must be take in attention. Therefore, even if MEPs endorsed the Commission intention to put forward an action plan for forestry they underlined that the use of forest biomass must not lead to increased pressure on natural forests.
The Parliament "is convinced that the sustainable production and use of biomass offers considerable advantages for developing countries and technology transfer with these thirds countries and (underlines that) the export of bioenergy technologies should be supported by the European Union". But this policy should be balanced and these countries should first satisfy their energy needs more than developing their export capacity.
REF.: 20061208IPR01269