3E Intelligence

I want to come back to the conclusions of the informal meeting of EU environment ministers in Essen because it could set some signposts of where the EU is heading in the next few years.

First of all, the Presidency’s paper underlines the economic importance of environmental technologies and eco-innovation and defines the EU’s ambition to remain the world leader in terms of eco-efficient technologies. It also advocates – and that is more significant- the need for strong environmental policies, based on a “strong regulatory core“.
Pointing to the 20-20-20 targets defined by the March Council, the paper sees the need for a “comprehensive strategy for ecological modernisation”, requiring contributions from different policy areas such as environment, energy but also trade, industry, research, transport and budget.

There is a need for a systematic review of key EU policiesto “hasten the mainstreaming of eco-efficient innovation”. The EU’s industrial policy as well as the Lisbon strategy will have to be revised, according to the Essen conclusions and the new eco-industrial policy should be flanked by the upcoming EU Action Plan for Sustainable Production and Consumption (expected to be adopted before the summer break).

“Tomorrow’s economic competitiveness will, to a large extent, be based on energy and resource efficiency”, says the summary. For sure, the EU has come a long way since it defined a very neo-liberal competitiveness goal in 2000. “The key to future jobs, growth and wealth, as well as to protecting the environment, will be fast and efficient eco-innovation. This requires strong environmental regulation combined with a broad range of other policy measures“. Is this the same EU which a bit more than a year ago had big problems with the weak environmental thematic strategies, because they could undermine the EU’s competitiveness?

The paper promises no more and no less than a “new view on Lisbon” with the following highlighted policy instruments:

  • a new generation of environmental regulation stimulating new products which can be European top runners;
  • the use of new economic instruments including harmonisation of energy taxation and phasing-out perverse subsidies;
  • a stronger and more effective emissions trading scheme;
  • a strengthening of the Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP);
  • green public procurement;
  • green lead markets;
  • sustainable energy technologies (the summary questions the high priority of research funding for nuclear fusion, and would like to see more money go to energy efficiency, renewables, clean carbon technologies hydrogen and “an innovative electricity grid”).

    The summary’s last sentence: “This new agenda for Europe implies nothing less than a new industrial revolution over the next 10 to 15 years.”

    Am I dreaming or is there a genuine new (eco-)vision for Europe growing in the heads of our political leaders?

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