In the face of climate change, the EU Environment Ministers have called for a restructuring of European industrial policy. The European Union needs to place greater focus on improving energy and resource efficiency, promoting eco-innovations and accelerating the spread of environmental technologies in all sectors. "Not only do we want to make the European Union the most competitive economy in the world, we also want to be pioneers in resource efficiency and ecological innovation," stated Federal Environment Minister Gabriel at the end of the informal meeting in Essen. Chaired by Minister Gabriel, the EU's 27 Environment Ministers held discussions over 2 days on an ecological industrial policy for Europe.
"Environmental technologies already play a major role for growth and employment in Europe. Their global market volume will double from around 1,000 billion euros in 2005 to approx. 2,200 billion euros by 2020. To ensure that Europe can maintain its technological and economic leading position in this field, policymakers must steer the right course. The concept of ecological industrial policy is the economic answer to the ecological question", noted Minister Gabriel.
The Environment Ministers voiced their support for a range of specific measures, outlining that improvements in the European emissions trading scheme are of fundamental importance. Emissions allowances, for instance, should be allocated to a greater extent on the basis of uniform calculation methods. Allocation should no longer be free of charge; allowances should instead be auctioned. The specification of the emissions caps also has to become more transparent.
The Environment Ministers also advocated dynamic standards in order to provide a strong market incentive for energy-efficient innovations, for example for electrical household appliances. "We need continuous competition for the most efficient solution, based on the model of the top runner approach that has been proven successful in Japan. With this approach the most effective product sets the standard that all other providers have to follow," explained Minister Gabriel.
Furthermore, the Environment Ministers discussed a further harmonisation of energy taxation in the EU. The Ministers expressed their view that the further dismantling of environmentally harmful subsidies is essential.
Agreement was also reached in Essen that the Member States will place greater focus on environmentally sound products in the context of their procurement policies, thus contributing to improving the market opportunities of eco-innovations. Research activities in particular should be intensified, especially with a view to sustainable energy technologies.
Further information and photos from the Ministers' Meeting are available at www.eu2007.de.