Summary: "Energy and environment policies for the future" - Speech by EU Commissioner Dimas (3 May 2007: Brussels)
Speech by Stavros Dimas, Member of the European Commission, responsible for environment, "Energy and environment policies for the future", Amartya Sen Lecture Series on Sustainable Development, Brussels
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to introduce this lecture, the second in the "Amartya Sen Lecture Series on Sustainable Development". We are very privileged to have Professor Sen present with us.
In the first lecture, in March 2006, Sir Nicholas Stern set out an impressive vision of the global challenges relating to sustainable development, climate change and international action. He also stressed the importance of EU leadership in terms of ideas, delivery, shaping markets and spurring international cooperation. The influence on present thinking and policy developments has been remarkable. I trust that the same will happen with the vision for energy and the environment that Lord Browne will sketch for us today.
Today's topic, in fact, aims at further exploring the close relationship between energy and the environment, where climate change figures at a key place.
Energy and environment policies are two sides of the same coin, especially, but not only, when it comes to fighting climate change. However, until recently, policy makers and the business community tended not to make this link and to look principally at the energy side.
I am proud to say that the integrated energy and climate package adopted by the European Commission in January 2007 - and endorsed by EU leaders at the European Council in March - fully acknowledges this fundamental link.
Our strategy places the battle against climate change at the heart of the new energy policy for the European Union. We are proposing a 30% reduction in the developed world's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as part of a new international agreement to control climate change.
Pending this agreement, the European Union has given a firm independent commitment to reduce its own emissions by at least 20% by 2020, in particular through measures in the energy field. We have a wide-ranging Energy Action Plan to meet this objective.
The challenge of preventing climate change from spiralling dangerously out of control builds substantially - even if not exclusively - on a major paradigm shift in the way we produce and use energy over the coming decades - a shift to a low carbon economy.
The challenge for policy makers is how to make this transition happen. In the true spirit of sustainable development, we need to consider this transition in a broader environmental and development perspective. This does not make things easier, but it is vital for success.
The transition towards a low carbon economy must allow the developing world to continue growing and escaping poverty. I believe that more efforts are needed to ensure clean growth. Renewable energy for instance, a local energy source by its very nature can create new development opportunities.
The European Union is working in this direction also through the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), an innovative form of financing to support energy projects in developing countries.
Other environmental issues are also of crucial importance. Air pollution is a major health problem across the world, but is most acute in many emerging economies. Tackling air pollution and climate change through an integrated approach makes a lot of sense, it is a win-win solution and it is easier to accept and promote. However, it is still hardly considered.
There also needs to be a sustainable approach to biomass and biofuels. These are without doubt important options for the low carbon economy, but we all know that they are not necessarily good for the environment in all their forms.
Massive and unmanaged expansion of biofuel production can create significant competition for scarce natural ecosystems and forests and for land with food crops.
I am glad to say there is a consensus in the EU institutions that the sustainability of biofuels must be taken into account in the future policy framework. But to be truly effective this issue will also require, once more, a broader, global approach.
In mapping future energy policy the importance of energy efficiency can never be overstated. In fact, the cheapest energy source is the one that can be avoided.
Energy efficiency also yields the highest environmental benefits: reducing conventional air pollutants and water consumption, preserving natural resources and fighting climate change.
There is enormous scope for energy-efficient innovations, from highly efficient power plants, to hybrid cars, to a better isolation of buildings, to our daily appliances, refrigerators, light bulbs and stand-by devices.
Behavioural change can also make a difference. Policy makers must ensure that information is provided to consumers to empower conscious decisions. Consumers are very much interested in knowing more about what they could do to protect the environment, consume less energy, fight climate change. This is what the European Commission is doing through the Europe-wide climate change awareness campaign we have been running for almost a year now.
Yet massive amounts of energy are still being wasted: in rich countries, because we can - for the moment - afford it to use it plentifully, and in poor countries because they cannot afford the efficient technology that we have. How to break this apparent deadlock is another crucial question we have to address.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The sustainable approach to energy policy is key for the success of our society and for preserving our quality of life.
It is clear that the protection of the environment - and more specifically the climate challenge - can be turned into new business opportunities. I am sure that we will find Lord Browne's lecture and Professor Sen's comments very enlightening and visionary. This is what we need for the future.
Thank for your attention.