EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Barroso & the BAU Bossa Nova

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU chief: ‘Energy and climate are today’s coal and steel’‘:

PWR’s business is monitoring the development of the renewable energy sector (RES) and climate change policies in Europe. As such, we are reasonably well placed to comment on the success or otherwise of the EU’s policies in these two linked areas.

Mr Barroso believes that EU climate policies were the greatest achievement of the last Commission. A cornerstone of the EU approach towards climate change has been not to accept “business as usual” or BAU in terms of action in the area of climate change or renewables.

Based on its analysis of legislation, PWR concludes that most EU legislation pertaining to climate change is in fact BAU and the reason for this is due to the Commission’s inability to face down vested interests. In turn this shows that Mr Barroso’s comment with respect to “I had more fights with big member states than with small member states” is perhaps correct, but does not mean that he won many or indeed any.

The Cars & Co2 Regulation is a case in point. The original Commission proposals were watered down (due to pressure from certain member states) so that they match, almost exactly, the current development programmes of the various large European motor manufacturers (OEMs). Model announcements this year indicate that by 2012 all the major OEMs will easily be able to match the provisions of the regulation. Indeed, there will be a number of cars available that will match the 95gms/km for 2019/2020. In summary, the legislation supported the BAU demanded by some member states and all OEMs. Mr Barroso 0 – Member States 1.

It is too early to tell if the RES directive will be a success, the Commission has issued pro forma forms for the member states to fill in. Success will be defined by the willingness of the Commission to implement infringement proceedings (either for tardiness or lack of a credible plan). Perhaps we will see a better result in this area. In the case of carbon capture and storage (CCS) there is a financing gap (despite the ETS new entrants’ reserve) that nobody wants to fill. Given that CCS is a core CO2 reduction technology (at least for Germany, the UK and Poland) this could hardly be called a success story.

In the case of the economic package earlier this year, money was offered for renewable energy projects that had already received financing, for example (there are several), the Ireland-UK HVDC interconnector.

None of the above would matter were not the situation with respect to climate change so very serious. PWR monitors what it calls the “geek” aspects of climate change. These indicate that radical action to reduce CO2 emissions is needed now. EU talk on climate change is encouraging, it is by far the leading region in terms of CO2 emission reduction and it has made some progress in this area. However, much more is needed and the “much more” means treading on toes that prefer BAU.

Mr Barroso may be the right person to deliver this. However, this means having a preparedness to face down member states and corporates (well it ain’t SMEs who want BAU) and most importantly, not just having fights with big member states, but winning them.

Mike Parr

PWR

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