EU recovery plan must bring energy efficiency and green energy in from the sidelines

25 November 2008

Brussels, 25 November 2008 - With accelerated spending of EU regional aid billions expected to feature in tomorrow's economic recovery plan announced by the European Commission, CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) are calling for substantial increases in EU spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy to be put on the fast-track by the Commission.

For the current 2007-2013 budgetary period, these two key environmental and economy-boosting sectors have been allocated an unambitious EUR 9 billion across the EU-27, representing less than 3 percent of total EU spending. In the new member states, Bankwatch and FoEE's most recent analysis of the EU allocations identified a paltry 1.3 percent going to energy efficiency and 1.1 percent to renewables out of the total EUR 177 billion earmarked for the new member states.

It has been reported that the Commission is considering “front-loading” the distribution of EU regional aid funds in central and eastern Europe – with money allocated for 2011-2013 to be spent in 2009 and 2010 – while José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, has commented that “Spending to beat the recession must be smart spending.”

Keti Medarova-Bergstrom, EU Funds coordinator for Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Smart, recession-busting spending from the EU should mean much stronger commitment to energy efficiency measures that can deliver clear short term benefits for the EU economy and households. The extremely tight economic situation is now focusing business minds in central and eastern Europe on energy efficiency, but they need assistance to get the region's notorious levels of energy wastage down.

“Around the world, green 'New deals' are being discussed as credible paths out of the economic crisis. Some ambitious new commitments from the Commission on energy efficiency and renewables will reap economic and climate benefits – given their marginal share of the EU pie to date, there can be no excuse for dropping the ball again.”

Earlier this month, the results of a public consultation organised by the Directorate-General for Budget identified climate change and energy (including efficiency and renewables) as the first and third highest priorities for future EU spending.

Keti Medarova-Bergstrom said: “These results from DG Budget show that the stakeholders participating in the consultation – national governments, EU institutions, business and environmental groups – want to see a fundamental revision of how EU taxpayers' money is spent in the future, one that places climate and clean and efficient energy spending highest on the priority list.”