European countries have to make drastic cuts to their carbon dioxide emissions to reach targets they have set themselves. Brussels is explaining why reducing CO2 makes sense for the environment and for business.
Senior European Union leaders say nearly eliminating carbon emissions from Europe's energy by the middle of the century may work out to be little more expensive than sticking to fossil fuels.
The message came out of a meeting with energy industry figures, civil society groups and academics in Brussels that aimed to build support for the EU's 2050 Energy Roadmap, which was published in December.
It charts ways Europe might slash its emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050.
Danish Energy Minister Martin Lidegaard, whose country currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, said solving energy issues would help solve financial problems as well.
"Europe imports half of its energy," he said. "From 2010-2011 the EU bill for import of oil rose by more than 40 percent, costing us an extra 100 billion euros that could have been invested in energy efficiency, in jobs, in growth in Europe."
Lidegaard added that the world's financial, climate and resource problems were deeply interlinked.
"We cannot solve one without solving the others," he said.
According to the roadmap, electricity costs for consumers will likely rise until 2030 then plateau and eventually decline.
It also suggests the cost of remaining dependent on fossil fuels could prove almost as expensive as making the large investments needed to get away from them.
Investing in an energy transition will mean building thousands of kilometers of upgraded electricity grids as well as more sources of cleaner power, more storage capacity and better insulation for homes.
EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard said this activity should be seen as an opportunity rather than a burden.
"Climate protection done in a smart way is not about de-industrialization, it is about reindustrialization," Hedegaard said. "Globally, for instance, government support for the fossil fuel industry is around seven times more than for renewables."
Wind where the wind blows
Inside the European Union's executive there are differences over how to reach the 2050 target.
While some promote renewable energies, others are keener to see more support for nuclear energy, gas and carbon capture and storage technology.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said to remain internationally competitive, Europe needs to harmonize its electricity grids as well as its support for renewable energies.
He said where once cheap labor determined the flow of investment, in future it could be cheap energy.
"We should also be keeping in mind the best locations in Europe: Wind energy where the wind blows, solar energy where the sun shines. Europe has it all, but I think 27 versions of the same subsidies is short sighted."
Author: Christoph Hasselbach / sms
Editor: Nathan Witkop