Tag Archive: Energy

EU Arctic Aspirations Stonewalled Again

For the second time, the Arctic Council has deferred an EU application to become an observer on the multilateral Arctic forum. The Arctic Council was formally established through the Ottawa Declaration in 1996. The impetus behind the Council’s inception was the need for an intergovernmental  forum in which Arctic states could cooperate in matters mutually beneficial for the region.

The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has argued that the EU “has a stake in what happened in the Arctic”, and “is an Arctic actor by virtue of its three Arctic states, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.” The EU has not shied away from speaking about its Arctic interests. In June 2012, the Commission proposed a three point Arctic policy, the most salient of which is the sustainable development of resources.

It is undeniable that the EU has a stake in the future of Arctic development. It is estimated over 90% of Europe’s oil production and 60% of its gas production comes from offshore operations occurring in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. Moreover, an estimated 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its undiscovered gas reserves are lying within the Arctic seabed. Additionally, proponents of EU accession have argued that climate change is a trans-boundary issue, and thus, will adversely impact European weather patterns and fish stocks.

There have been two primary arguments against the EU attaining permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. First, the Heritage Foundation has repeatedly asserted that the EU is a “supernational” organization and, therefore, does not meet the criteria to join the Arctic Council as an observer. Second, the Canadian government has opposed EU observer status since the EU submitted its first application in 2009.

Canadian opposition began in May 2009 when the European Parliament voted 550-49 to impose a seal trade ban throughout the European Union. A Canadian Inuit group challenged the ban, but the General Court of the EU dismissed the appeal. Additionally, similar challenges have been brought before the European Court of Justice, but they also resulted in dismissal. Consequently, this lack of success in the European courts inspired a Nunavut-based group to begin the “No Seal, No Deal” petition calling on the Canadian government to reject the EU’s application for full observer status.

This second argument may carry more weight with the Arctic Council than the former. Following the announcement of the EU’s deferral, Leona Aglukkaq, the new Canadian chair of the Arctic Council, pointed out that one of the criteria that observers must meet is to demonstrate respect for the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people of the North.

The EU’s interests in the Arctic are not disappearing any time soon. Recently, Italy joined EU member states: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as observers on the Arctic Council while Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all have permanent membership. Hopefully these EU Arctic actors will keep the EU’s best interest in mind until relations are able to thaw with Canada.

EU Directive Bans Incandescent Light Bulbs

Following a European Union directive, 40-watt and 25-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be manufactured, produced or sold in European Union member states, starting on September 1, 2012. The EU implemented the directive to cut energy costs across all of its member states.

The European Commission writes a draft of a proposed directive. The Commission presents the draft to the European Parliament and to the Council for evaluation and approval or rejection. European directives must be complied with by all member states, but each state can choose its own method of conforming to the directives. Directives have legal effect; even when a directive has not been implemented by a member state it still has a legal effect. This directive, which was implemented on September 1, 2009, consists of phasing out incandescent light bulbs over the succeeding four years. Some retailers stopped selling incandescent light bulbs before the directive was enacted.

The phase out has received support from green groups, such as Green Alliance. According to The Guardian, Dustin Benton said, “Whatever your view of the EU, this legislation is good news for consumers. It rewards innovative manufacturers and could cut bills by £158 per year. The government should ignore Eurosceptic opposition and help consumers to save money by regulating for efficient products.” But, the directive is receiving opposition from some who do not want to pay the price non-incandescent light bulbs and some who believe that other bulbs do not work as well as the incandescent bulbs.

The EU action is comparable to the U.S.’s policy in adopting the Energy Independence and Security Act. The U.S. Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which states that 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be manufactured, produced or imported in the US, starting on January 1, 2012. 100-watt incandescent light bulbs can be sold in U.S. stores until there are no more left to sell. The U.S. law’s goals are similar to the EU directive to lower energy consumption and to cut energy cost.

Peter Hunt, joint chief executive of the Lighting Industry Association, said to the Guardian, “The phase-out has been very smooth. Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong. The new LED replacements for halogen downlighters that have come on to the market over the past year work just as well, for example. Price is still a barrier, but that’s coming down almost daily as volume increases.”

James Russil of Energy Saving Trust told The Guardian the directive can save the average home £30 a year and that the directive is making a “real difference” in energy consumption.  Anything can help when 19% of electricity is consumed by lighting. No specific goal has been stated at this time.

A Sustainable Future: Energy Planning in the European Union

Recently, an European Commission report on electricity goals was leaked to the press. This “2050 Energy Road Map” offers a glimpse into the mindset of European Commission towards fossil fuels.  The language of the draft report emphasizes a need to drastically decrease the use of fossil fuels and make the shift to renewable energy sources.

This new plan rests on the assumption that Member States will meet the energy goals set out in the Europe 2020 Initiative.  This initiative is marketed as a “strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy.”

The 2050 plan can be expected to create enormous cost for governmental bodies and the public. Infrastructure will need to be upgraded and retrofitted to accommodate renewable sources. In addition, the household cost of energy consumption is expected to rise to levels that will substantially impact household budgets. By 2030 it is estimated that energy costs will represent fifteen percent of income.

The underlying motivation for the creation of additional goals may be scientists’ belief that without a substantial reduction in carbon emissions, global warming will not be maintained at current levels and the world will experience devastating results from climate change.

It is foreseeable that such a comprehensive plan would cause friction between Member States as individual governments make energy plans for their nations. For instance, Polish governmental officials are looking at the possibility of developing the country’s shale gas resource. As the implementation of these plans more forward, serious discussion will take place about the supremecy of Community law and how it inhibits Member States from pursuing individual interests related to the protection of their economic future.

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