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European Law Monitor newsEU businesses lead move to a low carbon economy • Conclusions of the High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and Environment  

Without the engagement of business there is no solution for building a global low carbon economy. This is the overarching message of the High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and Environment, which after two years ended its work earlier this week with the conference "Towards a global low carbon economy". The Group is a blue print for how European policy issues can be designed in an integrated manner, in this case, in the area of competitiveness, energy and environment. This has been done through bringing key stakeholders together, before the Commission tables its proposals. It has therefore contributed to increased transparency of the policy making process, better regulation and paved the way for more robust policies by the Commission. In addition to highlighting some of the successes of the Group's work the conference conveyed a series of messages ahead of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali in December 2007. The Bali meeting needs to deliver a road map that engages businesses through a new platform to reach an international agreement by 2009. This agreement should enable international action to stabilise the global temperature increase at around 2 °C within this century.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: "Tackling climate change requires a varied, integrated approach, which addresses the triple goal of competitiveness, energy and the environment. European leaders have made clear that Europe intends to lead the move to a global low carbon economy. The opportunity is to be technology leader and therefore technology supplier in the future. Taking action now can give European businesses an advantage over others, so they manufacture the safest and cleanest products, which the world is waiting for.''

The EU Commissioners Andris Piebalgs for Energy Neelie Kroes for Competition and Stavros Dimas for Environment participated also in the event together with Industry Ministers and representatives of leading business organisations, companies and environmental NGOs. The most important messages to the UN conference in Bali are:

     1. Climate change is a global issue; Energy accounts for (80%) of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and must receive priority attention in addressing climate change. The EU has recognised the opportunity for early action and is taking the political lead. But neither the EU nor the industrialised countries alone can achieve success in the fight against climate change. This will demand action by all major emitting countries, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. It is recognised that a range of different mechanisms will be needed to enable different countries and actors to engage.
     2. Engagement of business in the solution is vital; It is business that will have to develop more sustainable products and services. And it is business that will act in the massive deployment of low carbon and energy efficient technologies, requiring major investment in all countries and the significant transfer of private investment to developing economies. Business is willing to act but it is up to public authorities to create conducive market conditions.
     3. Collaborative action is needed; Business, Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are uniting in Europe to take action. This inclusive approach needs to be adopted worldwide to increase the effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation strategies.
     4. There is urgency to act now; Science tells us we need to address the climate change issue urgently. The opportunity to act is now, as investment cycles are entering an important phase of capital stock renewal and expansion. New investments in energy supply globally are estimated at about €15 trillion over 2005-2030; this represents a huge challenge but also an opportunity to deploy the best low carbon technologies. Emphasis should be placed on deploying cost effective solutions and avoiding technology lock-in. Deepening of the global carbon market will be essential.
     5. Industry international sectoral agreements offer a way forward; they could encourage technology and best practice diffusion thereby accelerating action globally. In light of limited time and with a view to progressively developing a global carbon market, both industry and governments should endeavour to develop appropriate sectoral approaches as part of a post-2012 solution.
     6. Businesses and NGOs are willing to act; but there is a need at the international level for a platform to facilitate interaction between governments and these key stakeholders. This would enable the more rapid development and implementation of productive solutions in technology, adaptation and mitigation, financial and investment flows and risk management and thus facilitate the delivery of an integrated approach to climate change and energy security. Addressing climate change is not just a discussion about environment; it must also cover the relevant trade, finance and competitiveness issues.

Over the past two years the HLG has reflected on the functioning of energy markets, the EU emissions trading scheme, the long term energy future for Europe, drivers for investment in power generation and energy efficiency, and providing the right framework for industry to adapt to the energy and climate change challenges.

The complete set of the High Level Group's reports, including policy recommendations in above fields, has been published today.

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