Energy Efficiency measures – what should be the focus of EU climate policy

Tony Robson writes in the Financial Times (16 January) arguing that “energy efficiency must be the starting point for the EU’s climate policy for 2030”. He makes a good case with which I largely agree. What I want to focus on is the mix of measures to support that climate policy for 2030 and the current confusion and duplication of these measures which do not send a clear message to the market.

The EU has a range of measures which “address” or “support” climate policy, but a real concern is that they are developed separately and do not provide a holistic framework to find the most efficient way to support climate policy. The lack of coordination means that different measures may target the same environmental issues and place a multiple cost / regulatory burden on businesses and or consumers.

A good example is the dispute about which instruments have led to the reduction of emissions in the EU to meet the 2020 target? The main contributor appears to be energy efficiency measures, with the EU ETS providing a small impact (illustrated by the low cost of permits at present). This outcome can be seen to be the result of the most efficient measure being a focus on energy efficiency, but some have argued that it shows the weakness of the ETS and that this measure needs to be reformed and strengthened to be more effective. While the enabling measures for climate policy are not coordinated this will always be the case with the promoters of each measure seeking to improve its impact rather than focussing on the most efficient mechanism. This competition between different measures in achieving targets does not lead to the most efficient process to achieve targets, it is unfortunately more about ego than environment.

Instead what we need is a coordinated policy framework, which identifies the most efficient measures to achieve policy objectives and targets and prioritises those measures. Using duplicative measures doesn’t support environmental aims, particularly if it results in less economic activity in Europe and the export of emissions to other countries.

Energy efficiency measures should be supported and Mr Robson rightly identifies the need to target energy efficiency in buildings (both commercial and residential) given their significant contribution to emissions. This is a body of work which will require resources and would be an excellent area of focus at EC level – given that buildings account for roughly 40% of emissions it is difficult to see how the 2050 targets will be achieved unless this happens?

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