The powerful employers’ group BusinessEurope has called on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to radically shift the EU’s energy policy away from climate change mitigation towards cost-competitiveness and security of supply.
Speaking after a regular meeting with the ‘Social partners’ chaired by Barroso yesterday (2 May), BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer argued that the EU should re-industrialise and that for this purpose a change of energy policy was needed.
BusinessEurope is the the organisation representing 41 industrial and employers’ federations in 35 European countries, which is seen by its critics as the most powerful lobbyist with many friends in the European Commission’s leadership.
Beyrer argued for the need to re-industrialise Europe. “The crisis has shown that Europe cannot be successful with an industry quota way below 20%. We think [20%] is the right target,” he said.
In order to make the continent competitive, energy policy should be “totally re-shaped,”
Beyrer said that the EU’s Green Paper for 2030 climate targets (see background) was “going into the right direction”, adding: “But it has been too much driven by climate in the past and will have to re-shape it and re-balance it to cost-competitiveness and security of supplies”.
BusinessEurope’s comments on climate change should not be seen as a surprise, especially in the light of the organisation’s recent statement following the European Parliament vote two weeks ago, which rejected EU plans to ‘backload’ – or withhold – 900 million carbon allowances from auction to boost their price.
BusinessEurope called the EU proposal “unhelpful” and labelled it as “political interference”.
The rejection of the ‘backloading’ could be seen as a collective defeat of the Commission. However, individual Commission members, including Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, have voiced scepticism regarding the plan to salvage EU’s ailing carbon market.
Barroso: ‘Still possible to defend the climate’
Asked by EurActiv to comment on Beyrer’s statement, Barroso sought a middle ground between BusinessEurope and the environmentalists.
“I think it is possible to continue with a position which is in defence of the climate. I think climate change is an existential threat,” Barroso started by saying.
But he added that the response to the climate change challenge should be made “together with the community of entrepreneurs”.
“It is true that in the last period some companies face energy competitiveness problems which didn’t exist a few years ago”, he added.
EU leaders will grapple with controversial issues including shale gas development and climate change mitigation at an energy summit on 22 May, documents obtained by EurActiv show.
As agreed at the 14-15 March summit (see background), EU leaders will meet to discuss how to lower energy prices and so improve the Union’s industrial competitiveness.
According to the draft guidelines for the summit conclusions, prepared by the services of Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the EU heads of state intend to focus on “key aspects” of energy policy aimed at boosting growth, productivity and employment to help overcome the effects of the economic crisis.
“High energy prices and costs hamper European competitiveness,” the document says. It invites discussion on how Europe could stay competitive globally and bring down energy prices at a time when Europe is facing massive investment shortfalls in energy infrastructure and generation capacity.
Van Rompuy’s services also call on the EU leaders to discuss ways of further increasing energy efficiency, developing “indigenous resources” and facilitating investment. The Commission will be tasked with developing a “predictable climate and energy policy framework post-2020”.
Re-thinking climate policies
An analysis of energy-price costs in member states will be requested from the EU executive by the end of 2014, highlighting the EU’s competitiveness with its global counterparts.
Competitiveness, in the EU energy policy context, translates into a re-thinking of the Union’s climate policies.
Recently, the powerful employers’ group BusinessEurope called on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to radically shift the EU’s energy policy away from climate change mitigation towards cost-competitiveness and security of supply. [more]
The Draft Conclusions say that the EU’s goal is to ensure “a level playing field for business and industry”, so they can compete in the global marketplace, having regard inter alia to the impact of carbon leakage”.
“Carbon leakage” is jargon for the relocation of European businesses abroad because of the comparative advantage they may gain from looser climate regimes.