EU Balks on Energy Efficiency Amid Trans-Atlantic Priority on Growth (3/01)     Print Email

The zeal for ever-tougher controls on carbon emissions seems to be seeping away in Europe, too – a trend measuring a dramatic U.S. shift away from cap-and-trade and carbon ceilings under the Obama administration.

In the EU, energy ministers resisted calls from the European Parliament on February 28 for tougher energy-efficiency measures – even though crude oil prices have risen close to the $100-a-barrel mark. Instead, the ministers seemed more intent on finding new sources for more energy security, notably shale gas. (Despite a new wave of environmental opposition, it has been a bonanza in the United States, but shale gas may not be a panacea in Europe.)

On energy efficiency, "the setting of any additional targets is not justified at present," was the conclusion published after the EU energy ministers' meeting. "The implementation of the EU energy efficiency target will be reviewed by 2013 and further measures considered if necessary,” it said.

For the moment, EU countries are lagging behind schedule in trying to meet their ambitious climate goal for 2050.  To get back on track, according to a leaked report by the European Commission, an extra five percent is needed in emissions savings over the next decade.

The energy ministers’ rejection of this more ambitious goal was attacked by Green party members at a meeting the same day of the European Parliament, but EU national governments have been reluctant to accept binding EU energy-efficiency targets until there is agreement on a common methodology to measure gains in efficiency.