By Andrew Barr
Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has claimed that the UK government has “played a significant role in weakening” European ambitions for energy efficiency.
EU member states would have been appointed a mandatory green target with 20 per cent improvements in efficiency, but after a final round of debate the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) was watered down in part by UK delegation, meaning that member states will instead be able to set their own targets.
The amendments are likely to produce only a 17 per cent efficiency saving, lower than the 20 per cent proposed by the EED.
Commenting on the UK’s role in weakening the arrangement, agreed late last night between the Danish Presidency and the European Parliament, Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Dave Timms said:
“The UK Government played a significant role in weakening the directive by opposing an overall binding energy saving target and insisting on loopholes so it could meet its obligation by claiming credit for old energy efficiency policies.
“Undermining European efforts to promote energy efficiency while proclaiming the benefits at home is both dishonest and damaging – especially from the self-proclaimed ‘greenest Government ever’.
“Introducing ambitious binding energy saving policies and targets would hugely boost European efforts to cut energy bills, reduce our reliance on dirty gas and oil imports and create new jobs and growth.
“The measures in the new directive are a step forward but it falls short of the huge stride a strong treaty would have brought.”
However, the UK government energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, claimed the intervention was a victory for competitiveness and growth.
He said: ”The deal which has now been agreed is good for the UK and for the EU as a whole and maintains the EU’s position as a global leader in tackling climate change.
“It signals a step-change in energy efficiency, and for the first time sets legally binding energy saving targets, which at a time of economic challenge will help improve the EU’s competitiveness and boost growth.”
WWF-UK joined Friends of the Earth in criticising the decision, accusing the UK of “cynically undermining” the EED, and claiming that green ambitions for Europe had been “effectively scuppered”.
The UK delegation also reportedly introduced a list of exemptions to targets that would have required public bodies to renovate a number of their buildings each year.
However the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it was “not a fair reflection” on the UK government to suggest that had it weakened ambitions.
Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, questioned the position of the DECC, saying: “Time and again, DECC ministers and officials remind us that the most cost-effective and ecologically sound way to meet all our energy objectives is to use fuel far more efficiently than today,”
“So I simply cannot understand why UK civil servants would wish deliberately to water down a directive specifically designed to expedite … energy saving.”