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News in Brief, BB200704

High-Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment


Climate change and energy policy: new panel of experts to advise President Barroso, and the third report of the High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment is issued.

The European Council of 8 and 9 March 2007 was preceded by considerable work by the European Commission advisory groups on energy and climate change issues. On 27 February the High Level Group (HLG) on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment issued its third report and a few days later, on 6 March, the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso appointed a new European Union panel of renowned experts to advise the EU on energy and climate change.

HLG calls EU to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies

The HLG on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment, was set up by the European Commission in February 2006 to look at the interaction between industrial, energy and environmental policies and to provide expert advice to the EU. The HLG includes the EU Commissioners for industry, competition, energy and the environment, plus senior representatives from EU Member States, industry and civil society (see Brussels Briefing - July 2006). It has already met four times (in February, June and October 2006 and on 27 February 2007) and currently has ten ad hoc working groups.

In its third report, the group focuses on incentives to promote low-carbon technologies, with specific reference to energy intensive sectors, such as steel, chemicals, paper and cement, which have been hit by rising energy prices. The report’s main conclusion is that public funds in support of environmentally harmful technologies should be abolished. In particular, the HLG urged EU Member States to consider comprehensively reforming and phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies in cases where they undermine other EU goals, such as fighting climate change or ensuring efficient energy markets. Subsidies and state aid should only be used for the common interest in cases of clear market failure and without distorting competition.

A new advisory platform

Established at the request of the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the new advisory group on energy and climate issues held its first meeting on 6 March 2007. It was invited to reflect on the new Energy Package and the link with the policy for combating climate change in preparation for the European Council on 8 and 9 March.

The advisory group comprises both energy and climate experts from a range of disciplines Member States. The group is made up of 11 representatives and includes academics, researchers, activists and business leaders (see below).

The group’s task is to advise EU officials on the different options facing Europe in terms of future energy policy. Although a definite timetable and agenda have not yet been established, in future the group should meet to discuss wider issues, such as the legislative proposals stemming from the Energy Package, and the forthcoming G8 meeting on energy and climate change. The work will be carried out in cooperation with the Commission’s Bureau of European Policy Advisers.

According to a spokesperson from the Commission, the idea is not to “bypass” the Commission services but rather to “test the excellence of their work”, particularly DG Energy and DG Environment, by using the expertise of independent advisors, scientific techniques and opinions from “outside” sources.

However, EWEA considers that it’s not clear whether a new “advisory group” is really necessary, since the Commission already has access to the expertise of the HLG on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment, and the European Environment Agency, whose main task is to help the Commission in defining and providing scientific backing for its policies.

The Advisory Group
Cesar Dopazo, Professor, Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología de Materiales y Fluidos, Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza
Nicolas Hulot, Founder, Fondation Nicolas Hulot, Paris
Claudia Kemfert, Professor, Deutsche Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW), Berlin Allan Larsson, Chairman of the Board, University of Lund, Sweden
Claude Mandil, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), Paris
Carlo Rubbia, Professor, CERN, and Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics 1984, Geneva
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Berlin
Sir Nicholas Stern, Adviser to the UK Government on the economics of climate change and development, and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, London
Peter Sutherland, Chairman, BP plc, London
José Viriato Soromenho Marques, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Universidade de Lisboa
Michael Zammit Cutajar, Ambassador for Climate Change, Malta, and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Geneva


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