Brussels drops plan to green its buildings
08.03.11 @ 09:29
BRUSSELS - The European Commission appears to have dropped earlier plans to set an example for member states by making its many buildings in Brussels and Luxembourg more energy efficient.
The omission of the pledge is just one of several recent changes to the commission's 2050 low carbon economy 'Roadmap' and 'Energy Efficiency Plan' - both set to be published on Tuesday (8 March) and seen by this website.
Officials say inter-departmental wrangling has been fierce in recent weeks as the institution's energy and industry departments attempted to water down parts of the two documents.
The papers make the case for a 25 percent cut in EU carbon emissions by 2020, rather than the currently promised 20 percent.
The commission still claims the higher target is achievable through greater energy efficiency, calling on EU governments to lead the way by steering public money towards energy efficient options and renovating public buildings.
But it appears uncomfortable with its own message. A paragraph saying: "The commission will lead the way in its own buildings. It will bring the energy performance level of those it already owns up to the cost optimal performance class by 2015," has been dropped from the latest draft of the Energy Efficiency Plan.
Another last-minute tweak is to drop an earlier call to reduce the number of carbon credits in the EU's emission trading system by 500 million to 800 million. A source on Monday said the final draft would retain the option of reducing the number of allowances, but without mentioning specific numbers.
Environmental groups say an increase in EU energy efficiency must be complemented by a reduction in EU carbon allowances to ensure the price of the permits stays high enough to incentivise movement towards cleaner production by European businesses.
EU commissioners will meet Tuesday morning to agree the final language of the two texts before publication.
Energy-intensive industries such as the European steel producers association, Eurofer, have lobbied hard against a reduction in the number of ETS allowances. They have also worked against increasing the EU's international 2020 carbon-cutting pledge to 30 percent in the Roadmap document.
"The confiscation of allowances from the emissions trading system, as proposed by the roadmap, will have exactly the same effect as a unilateral move to 30 percent, this is unacceptable. We hope member states will not fall into this trap," Gordon Moffat, director general of Eurofer, said in a speech last month.
Critics such as Rebecca Harms, a German MEP who co-chairs the European Parliament's Green group, say some members of the European Commission have been listened too much to the voices of heavy industry.
"We gave EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard a chance, and this chance is not over, but she is in a very difficult situation ... EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik is the only one who helps her and EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger is always against. He's always explaining that 30 percent is too ambitious ... He constantly repeats that it would lead to a deindustrialisation of Europe," Ms Harms said at a recent briefing.
"There was a time when commission president Jose Manuel Barroso seemed to be affected by climate change, but those times are over."
Mr Barroso is reluctant to go beyond the 20 percent limit despite a call from the German, French and British environment ministers last July to move to 30 percent, an EU official confirmed.
"Barroso reflects political realities. Which member states actually support a greater effort of climate change?" the contact said. The source suggested that the Franco-German-UK 30 percent call - made at the level of environment ministers - did not reflect their true government positions.