Brussels, 23 November 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe castigated EU Industry and Economy Ministers today for ducking out of concrete commitments to cut energy waste at the EU Energy Council meeting. The Energy Council discussed the proposed target to reduce EU energy waste by 20 percent by 2020 but did not commit to actually achieving it. 
Sonja Meister, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"Europe has a vast potential to stop wasting energy, but EU ministers constantly fail to agree concrete steps to tap into that potential. Europe's governments must swap their grand words with real action, based on binding targets and powerful legislation."
The 'Action Plan on Energy Efficiency', adopted today, emphasises the potential of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, but ministers failed to make this a binding target to steer future policies and investments. Achieving this target could, apart from cutting CO2 emissions, bring huge economic benefits for the European Union .
Governments also failed to stress the need for concrete and effective policies to complement the Action Plan. The plan falls short in several sectors, especially in the transport sector, which already accounts for more than 30 percent of energy use in the EU, and is growing. Friends of the Earth Europe continues to insist that the fuel efficiency of cars must improve and that mandatory targets are the only realistic way to achieve this.
"If the EU wants to secure its long-term energy supply, then cutting its appalling waste of energy should be the top priority. Road traffic burns up 80 percent of Europe's oil imports and the fuel efficiency of cars is barely improving - carmakers got away with weak and voluntary targets so they are just sitting back. Binding standards are absolutely necessary," Ms Meister added. 
Friends of the Earth Europe also criticised the lack of ambition to promote more efficient use of energy in the buildings sector. The existing Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is only up for revision in 2009, even though it is already clear that it fails to cover most of the building stock and will fall a long way short in deliver the potential energy savings in this sector. EU Ministers failed to address this policy gap in the Energy Council today. 
 The Council conclusions of today's EU Energy Council will be available shortly at http://consilium.europa.eu/cms3_fo/showPage.ASP?lang=en
 "Realising the 20% potential 2020, equivalent to some 390 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent), will result in large energy and environmental benefits. CO2 emissions should be reduced by 780 Mt CO2 with respect to the baseline scenario, more than twice the EU reductions needed under the Kyoto Protocol by 2012. Additional investment expenditure in more efficient and innovative technologies will be more than compensated by the more than 100 billion Euros annual fuel savings." (Energy Efficiency Action Plan, p.3)
 Friends of the Earth Europe calls for binding efficiency standards for cars. Starting from the current average CO2 emissions of ca. 160 g/km for all newly registered passenger cars in Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe is pushing for CO2 emissions to be reduced to 120 g/km in 2012 and to 80 g/km in 2016 in the fleet mix both EU-wide and in each member state. Since 1998, the industry has a voluntary-only target, which is not only weaker (140g CO2 per km by 2008), but which carmakers are sure to miss. Years ago, the European Commission had suggested to introduce binding efficiency standards of 120 g/km by 2010 - but then silently delayed the deadline to 2012.
 The energy saving potential is biggest in the large stock of private buildings across Europe. For example, a typical Belgian house is as badly insulated as a typical house in Spain - despite the very different climatic conditions. But buildings of a surface area of less than 1000 m2 are excluded, neglecting up to 90 percent of the potential to save energy. Ideally, European laws on energy use of buildings would set standards both for total energy use as well as the use of renewable energies to supply buildings with electricity or heat.