While Europe’s citizens feel that the way to tackle climate change and energy security is to increase the share of renewable energy, business says that the future is nuclear.
A strong divide is appearing between what businesses and citizens believe the EU needs to do on the questions of how to tackle global warming and ensure sustainable energy supplies for Europe.
These issues will be top of the agenda as leaders from the 27 member states gather for the EU’s annual Spring Summit on 8-9 March 2007.
According to a Eurobarometer opinion survey published on 5 March 2007, 83% of citizens agree that the EU should set a minimum percentage for the share of renewable energy in overall EU energy consumption.
However, Europe’s major business lobby BusinessEurope has expressed its concern about EU plans to set a binding 20% target for renewables, saying it is unrealistic and that no one had ever demonstrated how this could be achieved.
In BusinessEurope’s view, nuclear power has a “very strong contribution” to make as a non-CO2-producing form of power and the EU should take steps to increase its share in electricity generation from 32% to 40% by 2030. “An increased contribution by nuclear energy would help to promote the competitiveness of energy intensive industries,” said the group.
However, when asked, 61% of the overall EU population said that they thought the share of nuclear energy should be decreased due to concerns about nuclear waste and the danger of accidents.
In order to face up to the climate change challenge, more than seven out of ten Europeans accept that they will need to change their energy-consumption habits in the next decade and install energy-saving heating, lighting, cooling and other such equipment.
Business, on the other hand, is reluctant to change its behaviour and warns that a unilateral European target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will “seriously damage competitiveness in the EU” and could set the bar too high for other countries to join in a global deal.
Nevertheless, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Europe can create jobs and opportunities for its industries by turning itself into a “low-carbon economy” and creating a market for renewable energy.