Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas defended the Commission's ambitious new proposals to reduce emissions of global-warming gases in a bid to allay business fears that a unilateral move by Europe could seriously hurt the economy.
"Our proposals are not easy," Dimas told a group of British MPs in London. But he added that they were "essential" if the economic damage from climate change is to be kept "within manageable limits", as shown by the Stern Review in the UK.
"Damaged economies, refugees, political instability and loss of life are typically the results of war. But they will also be the results of unchecked climate change," Dimas said.
"It is clear that the fight against climate change is much more than a battle. It is a world war that will last for many years."
"It is like a war because to reduce emissions something very like a war economy is needed," Dimas added, saying that benefits would come in terms of "increased energy security and public health".
The Commission, he continued, is already working on new measures. These include:
- Extending the EU carbon trading scheme "to cover more sector and more gases" and linking up with similar schemes such as Japan's voluntary system and the emerging state-based policy in the United States, and;
- tackling car pollution, saying that the EU will "shortly" review its strategy on CO2 emissions from new vehicles. "It is clear that further action will be needed to reach our 2012 target of average emissions of 120 grammes per kilometre," Dimas said, adding that "the Commission will propose legislation later this year".
Meanwhile, in Brussels, Commission President José Manuel Barroso met with a group of 15 business leaders telling them it was "to their advantage to lead and not to be led" on the way to a low-carbon economy.
Most of them agreed. "Climate change is business and will lead to new jobs," said Lars Goeran Josefsson, chief executive of Swedish power company Vattenfall.
"Combating climate change … is a business opportunity," agreed Fulvo Conti from Enel, saying the Italian utility and other energy groups were already investing billions in energy research and energy efficiency.
"Acting now brings advantages: higher productivity from increased energy efficiency, new markets, new jobs," Barroso said as he presented the Commission's proposals on 10 January.
"European Union companies can take the lead".