Wednesday, 23 January 2008

EU unveils climate change package

At long last, the European Commission unveiled its much anticipated energy and climate change package today, and it's a doozy.

As reported on Certain Ideas of Europe, the plan promises to deliver steep cuts in greenhouse gases, job security for heavy energy users like steel works, a whopping increase in renewable energy production, lots more biofuels and greater energy security, with reduced dependence on unstable energy suppliers. The overarching theme is to make Europe the leader in combating global climate change.

But as the Economist points out, even as they were unveiling the new policy one of their main policy goals - a common European energy policy - was again being thwarted right in their backyard. Today Serbia’s government agreed to sell its oil and gas company, NIS, to Russia’s Gazprom. It's one more step toward Russia's goal of building a pipeline called "South Stream" to send gas directly into the EU. Gazprom has also done similar deals with EU members Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. All of this is a direct challenge to the European pipeline project Nabucco, which would bring gas to Europe from Iran and Azerbaijan via Turkey, reducing EU dependence on Russia.

The energy and climate change package is in many ways just as much about giving Europe a common energy policy as it is about combating climate change. The hope is that if the EU could get enough energy weight that the smaller countries won't be tempted to do individual deals with Gazprom. It could work, but the Nabucco project so far seems to be going nowhere while Russia is churning ahead. And a future in which the EU is dependant on Russia for its energy needs is a future no one in Brussels wants to see. Well, maybe no one except the Russian ambassador.

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