Giant EU energy flag outside EU Spring Council

9 March 2007

Grassroots support for climate-friendly energy as EU leaders seal energy future

March 9th, Brussels - As pivotal debate about Europe's future energy policy took place at the EU Spring Council today, Friends of the Earth constructed a 12m-high bright blue and yellow flag right outside the meeting, demanding that governments stop climate change, cut energy waste and choose renewables. The flag followed the design of the famous EU flag, but contained symbols for sustainable energy choices in the golden stars and was formed by hundreds of people from across Europe, dressed in blue on a giant frame. [1]

Jan Kowalzig, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"People across Europe are deeply concerned about climate change, and are fed up with governments protecting the dirty coal and nuclear industries. Grassroots support for a fundamental shift in energy policy towards renewable energy and energy savings was today thrust right under the noses of the most powerful politicians in Europe."

Participants in the action came from fifteen European countries. A sea of banners at the base of the giant flag displayed the slogan "Stop Climate Change. Cut Energy Waste. Choose Renewables," in multiple languages.

Individual stars in the installation - each 2m-high - were annotated with signatures, collected out on the streets across Europe in the last few weeks. Thousands of people have endorsed renewable energy and energy efficiency, calling for a shift away from energy based on dirty fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power. [2]

  • Each star of the giant EU energy flag represented a specific demand to EU leaders as they agree an action plan today that will govern Europe's energy future for the coming decades. [3]
  • A wind turbine and a sun called for greater promotion of renewable energy: Friends of the Earth insisted that EU leaders adopt a binding target of 25% of primary energy demand to be met by renewable energy by 2020, broken down into specific sectoral targets to stimulate investment in all areas, such as heating and cooling and electricity.
  • A low-energy lightbulb symbolised the demand for a greater commitment to increasing energy efficiency. Friends of the Earth highlighted that although the EU has acknowledged that it has the potential to cut its energy consumption by 20% by 2020, the summit will still fail to make concrete commitments to achieve it.
  • An anti-nuclear symbol called for a phase-out of nuclear power. Friends of the Earth is opposed to nuclear power playing any role in Europe's future energy policy, as it is dangerous, sensationally expensive compared to renewable energy and leaves a legacy of radioactive waste for hundreds of years.
  • An anti-coal symbol represented the demand for a phase-out of subsidies for fossil fuels. Friends of the Earth exposed the glaring hole in the proposed new energy policy, which aims to improve the functioning of Europe's energy markets but does not address billions of Euros of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
  • An anti-oil symbol demanded a reversal of unsustainable trends in the transport sector, for example by forcing carmakers to make more fuel-efficient cars. The action plan for Europe's new energy policy almost ignores the transport sector, which is absurd considering that transport guzzles 70-80% of foreign oil imports and that the EU aims to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.

Friends of the Earth also reiterated that the target adopted by the EU today for reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions should be at least 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Governments will today adopt only a 20% unilateral target, despite recommending that 30% is the level of reduction necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
[1] The action took place in Brussels this morning.

[2] A recent Eurobarometer poll also confirms that almost 90% of the EU population is concerned about climate change; 82% are well aware that the way their country consumes and produces energy has a negative impact on the climate and 61% think that the share of nuclear energy should be decreased due to concerns such as nuclear waste and the danger of accidents.

[3] For a detailed briefing about the EU energy Action Plan and Friends of the Earth's specific demands, see file: EU Council media brief (March07), Climate Energy Factsheets