Binding EU targets win favour -- Stern talks

How Europe's energy policy can help in the fight against climate change was the subject of discussions last month between EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and British economist Sir Nicholas Stern. The meeting between Piebalgs and the author of the recent influential Stern Report on the economics of climate change is part of a series of consultations by the Commission as it prepares the Strategic EU Energy Review, to be published early next year.

The review, announced in this year's draft policy paper on sustainable energy, will be the springboard for a new European energy policy and will propose medium and long term targets for renewables. At the end of 2005, Europe's leaders called for an EU-wide energy policy amid rising concerns about security of supply and climate change. The ambitious energy package includes a "road map" for renewable energy, a priority electricity network interconnection plan, and a report on the economics of nuclear energy, among other things.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has been calling on the Commission to propose binding renewables targets for different energy sectors, a plea that has not fallen entirely on deaf ears. Last month Piebalgs said he, too, favoured mandatory targets, but not starting until 2030. EWEA is calling for a 20% target for renewables' share of European energy consumption, to include a 35% goal for electricity from renewables.

The Stern report calculates the cost of not taking action to tackle climate change at 5%, at least, of global GDP per year, possibly rising to 20% or more. In contrast, says the report, the cost of action to reduce CO2 emissions in the next ten to 20 years can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year. Piebalgs says a responsible European energy policy must include ambitious goals for carbon free energy. "It is not only essential to save the planet but is also economically sound. This is the basis of the Energy Review."

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