Lobbyists scramble for attention on eve of summit

With energy and climate change stealing the headlines at this year’s Spring European Council, environmental NGOs and industry groups ranging from large power utilities to the international margarine association are all trying to grab media attention.

The electricity sector is in particular focus this year as EU leaders discuss plans to further liberalise markets and agree on new renewable energy targets.

In a statement issued on 6 March, European electricity industry association Eurelectric says that it "fully supports the drive for a diversified and balanced energy mix", and calls on policymakers to "exploit to the full all available technologies, starting with energy efficiency and including…all available options – renewable energies, clean fossil fuels and nuclear energy".

On renewable-energy targets, Eurelectric says it supports "a sustainable approach" which avoids 'boom and bust' or 'stop-go' situations, triggered either by unrealistic mandatory targets or unsustainable levels of [public] support".

"Europe now has a unique opportunity to make a significant move towards a community-wide support system for renewables…Europe must not miss this opportunity."

On 6 March, a group of NGOs from fields as diverse as environmental protection, development aid, human rights and peacebuilding, teamed up to urge European leaders "to agree ambitious measures to deliver energy and climate security".

The coalition - which boasts members ranging from the WWF to Amnesty International, the Open Society Institute and the European Citizen Action Service, chaired by former competition commissioner Mario Monti - that said climate change and increased global competition for scarce energy resources is not inevitable.

"We have the technology and wealth to solve these challenges. We believe that a revitalised Europe is the only power capable of taking the lead in driving the transition to a clean and fair global-energy economy. This can provide a truly popular focus for re-engaging European citizens in the project begun 50 years ago by the Treaty of Rome."

EWEA, the European Wind Energy Association, reiterated its calls for a binding EU target on renewables, saying that a rejection "would represent a dramatic step backwards compared with the current situation" which provides minimal objectives for electricity produced from renewable energy sources.

Binding renewable energy targets are however questioned by European industries using renewable raw materials from agriculture and forestry: paper, wood, oleochemicals, resins and the margarine industry. 

In a statement on 5 March, the coalition said that it was "increasingly concerned about the potential economic and environmental impact of current shortages and price increases of their raw material, as a result of the European Commission’s narrow focus on targets for renewable energies".

"Binding targets can lead to disproportionate subsidies, distort access conditions to raw materials and take away level playing fields," it said.

European leaders will gather in Brussels on 8-9 March for their Spring Summit. The focus this year is on energy and climate change with the hottest discussion focusing on whether to make future EU renewable-energy targets binding or not (EURACTIV 7/03/07).

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