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The Danish EU Presidency: Climate and Energy Challenges in a Time of Economic Crisis

Submitted by on 09 Mar 2012 – 11:17

By Thomas Egebo, Permanent Secretary of State, Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building

As of January this year Denmark is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is the seventh time Denmark has chaired the meetings in the Council of Ministers since joining the European Community in 1973. We will conduct the presidency in an open and professional way.

Denmark holds the EU presidency in a time of crisis. The economic situation in Europe will greatly influence the Council’s work in the coming months. But the presidency also presents challenges in other areas – certainly in the climate and energy council formations. Denmark will strive to advance the many climate and energy files that are on the table. We believe that progress in both fields is a core condition for economies to recover from the current crises. Greening our energy policy and ensuring a transition to resource and energy efficient low carbon economies underpins the current political focus on future economic growth.

On the energy agenda, the Danish Presidency will facilitate negotiations on the Commission’s proposal for an Energy Efficiency Directive. We will do our utmost to progress negotiations on this important file as much as at all possible. The Directive is crucial for the EU to reach its 20-20-20 targets by 2020. The target of 20 percent energy savings is the only climate and energy target, the EU is predicted not to reach. In fact, the current trajectory will only bring the community half the way by 2020. Adoption of the Energy Efficiency Directive will close this gap. Investments from both public and private sectors are needed to realise the target. But an ambitious directive means investing in Europe, instead of buying fossil fuels, which to a great extent is money that leaves Europe.

To complete the internal market, the EU needs an integrated, well functioning market for energy. An internal energy market will encourage competition and ensure better prices on energy for consumers. It will contribute to more efficient use of our energy resources and strengthen Europe’s energy security. Europe needs to enhance the production and consumption of renewable energy to secure a stabile energy supply and green our economies. The Danish EU Presidency will work to advance negotiations on the Commission’s proposal for an Energy Infrastructure package.

Reaching the 2020 targets is a critical milestone for EU’s climate and energy policy. But it is also crucial that we look beyond 2020. It must be a priority for the EU to get a clearer picture of further milestones towards the ambitious 80-95 percent emission reduction below 1990 levels in 2050. The Commission’s Low Carbon Economy Roadmap 2050 shows us a cost-effective pathway towards 2050. The Energy Roadmap 2050 put forward by the Commission just two weeks before the Danish Presidency, presents good guidance on the journey that European governments now must embark on.

A key factor in this regard will be creating the right framework conditions and incentives for the private sector to make long-term investments in green innovation – and green growth. The European Council’s conclusions of  9th December last year send a clear signal that urgent progress in negotiations on the two roadmaps is needed. The Danish Presidency will table a comprehensive discussion on which path will lead the EU to a near carbon neutral and resource efficient energy system by 2050.

An important aspect of EU energy policy is relations with third countries. The proposed decision on an information exchange mechanism with regard to intergovernmental energy agreements with third countries will be a high priority for the Danish Presidency. The decision is key to securing coherence in external energy relations. It is important that the mechanism be organised in a manner that creates the right balance between the need for transparency, flexibility and room for manoeuvre for the member states as well as protection of sensitive information.

Finally, the EU can and should continue to lead the way in the international climate negotiations. But it is important to remember that Europe cannot go it alone in the global combat against climate change. The Danish Presidency will work to ensure proper follow up after COP17 in South Africa. Durban gave us a valuable alliance with the Least Developed Countries and the Alliance of Small Island States, but also left a number of political questions to be dealt with in the coming months. The Danish Presidency will do its utmost to provide an ambitious and coordinated EU position for Bonn and COP18 in Qatar.

In this time of crisis, Denmark is ready to chair the Council of the European Union and meet our common climate and energy challenges with a strong belief that green growth is part of the solution for Europe. We will work to achieve tangible progress in close and trusting cooperation with member states and EU institutions.