EU-US summit yields energy cooperation

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The EU and US have held the first meeting of a new transatlantic Energy Council, after the US President Barack Obama and EU leaders had agreed to establish the new energy forum for cooperation during a summit on Tuesday.

The agreement, struck at ministerial level during the EU-US Energy Council, will boost cooperation on energy policy and technology research. The council is set to provide a new framework for bilateral dialogue on global energy security and policies to move to low-carbon energy sources.

“The Energy Council is a timely initiative in the context of growing global concerns on energy security and the important role that the energy sector has in climate change. Elevating these discussions between us to a political level underscores the importance we both attach to this area of our relationship,” said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik added that it was particularly important for research to feature in such bilateral cooperation as “political recognition of the importance of science to address our common challenges”. 

The first meeting of the Council was held yesterday (4 November), chaired by Sweden’s Enterprise and Energy Minister Maud Olofsson, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency.

Olofsson argued that the EU and the US are now further strengthening long-standing and well-functioning cooperation on energy issues. “I hope that we will achieve concrete results to promote innovation, renewable energy and to create new jobs. This is an enormous opportunity to convert to a sustainable energy system,” she said.

Olofsson continued by saying that the US had shown an interest in exchanging experiences in the field of energy. “[US Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu would for example like to take a look at Europe’s political policy instruments,” she said.

When asked what Sweden can learn from the US, Olofsson replied that the States is good at connecting businesses with politics and commercial development.
“Unfortunately, these areas tend to be more separated from each other in the EU, so I think we can learn from the US in that field,” she said.

No progress on climate change ahead of Copenhagen

However, there was little progress on the main topic of the summit, climate change (EURACTIV 04/10/09).

The summit declaration indicates no advances were made on the crucial issue of mid-term emission reduction targets. The document merely states that the post-Kyoto agreement should “aspire” to a goal of reducing global emissions by 50% by 2050 and refer to mid-term mitigation efforts by both developed and emerging economies.

The US has come under increasing pressure from the UN and the EU to clarify its reduction target for 2020 during the five-day UN climate talks currently taking place in Barcelona (EURACTIV 03/10/09).

According to sources, the US had refused to accept any reference to binding targets, which the EU would have been keen to include in the conclusions.

Merkel appeals to Congress

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that an agreement in Copenhagen must keep global warming below 2°C. After meeting US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, she made an historic address to both houses of Congress, urging the US to sign up to a new climate agreement in Copenhagen.

The last German chancellor to address Congress was Konrad Adenauer in 1957.

“We have no time to lose,” Merkel told US lawmakers. Domestic climate legislation has been delayed in the Senate and it now looks unlikely to be passed before Copenhagen.

The chancellor argued that other big emitters would be more likely to join a binding agreement if the US and the EU were to set an example.

“It is true that there can be no agreement without China and India accepting obligations, but I am convinced that if we in Europe and America show that we are ready to accept binding obligations, we will also be able to persuade China and India to join in,” she said.

The EU and US first agreed to develop strategic cooperation in the field of energy at the Vienna Presidential Summit on 21 June 2006.

The two giants work together to coordinate their programmes on energy labelling of office equipment through the EU-US 'Energy Star' agreement.

Moreover, technological cooperation on topics such as hydrogen or the ITER project for nuclear fusion form an important part of joint efforts in the field.

  • 2-7 Nov.: UN negotiations in Barcelona
  • 7-8 Nov.: G20 finance ministers' meeting
  • 10-11 Dec.:  EU summit. 
  • 7-18 Dec.: UN climate conference in Copenhagen. 

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