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As France changes environment minister, we must collectively admit that a very poor job has been done with Europe’s Clean Energy Package, writes Yamina Saheb.
Emmanuel Macron was elected on the promise of “Un Nouveau Monde” in France and within the EU. Many of us hoped that the “Progressive” French president would take the lead to “#makeourplanetgreatagain”.
Ahead of the annual review of Ecodesign and Labelling measures by the college of Commissioners, the executive was asked by political leaders and NGOs to unfreeze the Ecodesign and Labelling process, stalled for over a year, and to expand the scope of regulated products.
It was impossible to imagine a year ago. It’s hard to believe today, but the world might well move on the post-Paris Climate Agreement without Europe!
For once, the European Commission cannot be blamed for this “ridiculous” situation as President Juncker described the slow ratification by the EU of the climate deal. It could even be the opposite: we may well have to applaud the European Commission if its proposed fast-track ratification succeeds in giving EU leaders a seat at the table of the post-Paris climate decisions.
On my way back to Paris, I had to go through one of the most heavily guarded airports in the world. Unfortunately for last Thursday’s passengers, the scanner wasn’t very cooperative, and we ended up going through it again and again – without any shoes, belt, jackets or any potentially harmful garment of the sort of course. Once partially cleared by the defective scanner, we were all offered a complimentary and thorough body search before finally boarding our flight.
In these dark and uncertain economic times, we Europeans hang on to the tiniest sliver of hope. So when a silver lining appears on the energy efficiency front, let’s rejoice:
I may be an engineer by training, but I’m still tolerant. So tolerant in fact, that I can go so far as to willingly enter a room full of economists. That’s precisely where I was last month, enjoying some excellent presentations by distinguished economists on the macro-economic benefits of energy efficiency.
A few months ago, a German colleague of mine from the electricity supply division of the IEA introduced me to visitors as an expert on “that hippie thing”. I don’t know about you, but until that day I had never thought of energy efficiency as something “hippie”.
We hear all the time that one of the major barriers to an efficient building stock is the up-front investment cost and that the way to overcome this barrier is to provide incentives.
I don’t know about you, but I always have a hard time reconciling with the use of incentives to deliver what I think should be business as usual: low energy buildings.
Some would have us believe that construction regulations are new. Have you ever heard of the Code of Hammurabi? It’s the very first code of laws known in history, dating back to 1750 BC. And guess what? Building codes were already included! Six out of 282 laws regulated construction safety, including penalties for builders of non-compliant homes. Quite visionary, indeed, even if some penalties could now seem slightly stringent.
The 2016 edition of the EU Sustainable Energy Week was about empowering consumers. At the opening ceremony, Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete, the commissioner of climate and energy, made it clear that the energy transition is also about the active consumer engagement in the energy system. After centuries of relegating the energy consumer to a passive role, as simply a purchaser of (mostly) dirty energy sources, EU citizens will slowly move to a more active position by becoming energy producers: producers of energy savings and renewable energies.