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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

No more cheap energy, says Commission

Emmanuel Guerin, Director IDDRI Climate
Bringing together the great and the good from academia, NGOs, policymaking, industry and the media at the French Permanent Representation to the EU, the presentation of the new Climate Strategies/IDDRI report on ‘The Need for a Strengthened Energy and Climate Strategy – for an energy-efficient, competitive and low-carbon Europe’ preceded a lively debate on what is needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

The Climate Strategies report, a collaboration between high-level research institutes and led by IDDRI, part of Sciences Po in Paris, examines the feasibility of moving towards a 30% reduction in EU carbon emissions by 2020.  Raymond Cointe, representing the French Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry,  said that the pledges agreed at the climate summit in Copenhagen are “insufficient”, although he warned participants that we should not expect a legally-binding global agreement in the coming months.  Although the long-term emissions reduction objective is clear, the questions of how to move forward post-Kyoto and how to involve the EU’s international partners is key.  While Cointe said that it's in the EU’s interests to pursue a “long-term drastic reduction”, he reiterated calls often made by European industry, that the EU cannot go it alone.

The report’s authors point to energy efficiency in buildings and transport infrastructure as particular measures required to reach the targets.  In the transport sector, a shift between modalities, i.e. modes of transport, should be encouraged.  This fits nicely with the Procter & Gamble initiative on intermodality which took over Platform 6 of the Gare de Luxembourg in Brussels last week to demonstrate for MEPs what an efficiently-loaded intermodal container – one which can switch directly from road to ship or rail – looks like.  As ever, ‘show and tell’ is so effective in explaining complex ideas.  When you see the container loaded partly with small, heavy things like shampoo and the rest with light, bulky things, like nappies, smart loading of goods transport makes a lot of sense.  It’s also saving P&G a significant amount of cash by not having part-empty loads on the roads and rail.

Procter & Gamble initiative
Director of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action and longstanding climate policymaker, Jos Delbeke, warned participants that the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is here to stay and that any subsequent regulation needs to be compatible with the ETS.  He also stressed the importance of the Multiannual Financial Framework, currently being discussed in the EU institutions.  While financial planning may not seem that exciting, Delbeke pointed to the costs involved in refurbishing existing buildings, energy sector infrastructure, interconnectors, grids and so on.  "There are clever ways to employ the technology we have at hand," he said, adding that, "it can be done close to home without relying on energy imports as we have done in the past."

Most of the speakers brought up the need for investment certainty for low-carbon investments, notably for the decarbonisation of the electricity sector.  Delbeke concluded by saying that, “The time of cheap energy is behind us”.  All resources – energy, food and raw materials – are seeing a price increase, something which he said we must face up to.

As an aside, in response to an audience question on shale gas, the Commission announced that they were putting together a panel of global experts to advise on this matter.  Shale gas is expected to be included in the Energy Roadmap to be presented by the Commission at the end of this year.

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