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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 21 May 1998 (INFORSE, 1998, 20 p.)
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Guidelines for energy conservation

By Gunnar Boye Olesen,
INFORSE-Europe Coordinator

For more than a year, an official process has been developing guidelines for energy conservation. Now, these efforts have produced a Whitebook and a set of guidelines for European energy conservation. These papers were approved by the UN-ECE Committee on Environmental Policy this March. They will finally be approved by the Environmental Ministers at 'hus'98'.

NGOs Made a Difference

By following the development of the official energy conservation initiative, we as NGOs have had large opportunities to influence the work. From the main NGO paper on the issue, "NGO Visions for a European Energy Conservation Strategy", we have developed more concrete proposals on specific issues, some of which have been adopted, e.g., the idea of a small energy/CO2 tax in central and eastern European countries to raise revenues for energy efficiency and renewable energy activities. In many ways, the guideline gives a good basis for national and international energy conservation activities in Europe, and goes beyond previous international agreements in the field, e.g., the Energy Efficiency Protocol to the Energy Charter Treaty.

Not a Perfects Result

Still, the outcome of this process could be much better. It will only be a guideline and a paper that the countries can follow; it imposes no obligations. Also, the guidelines and the whole process have put too much emphasis on the European Energy Charter, which is made for increased energy trade and has no NGO participation.

Visionary Follow-up?

With the non-bonding guidelines almost in place, it is time to think about follow-up. From the task force that developed the guidelines come proposals of more than 20 follow-up activities, mainly strengthening international cooperation on different energy conservation activities: integrating external costs in energy pricing, a common labeling system for energy-consuming apparatus, cogeneration of heat and power, evaluation of employment in energy transition, etc.

As NGOs we should also think of a more visionary follow-up than the officially proposed "digging down in details." We would like more renewable energy and energy efficiency to be realized.

One of the ways is to impose more binding obligations on the countries, following the lines of the present nonbonding guideline. This could be achieved after hus'98 if this process leads up to a prime-ministers' summit, in which case energy ministers could be involved as well.

The involved NGOs and networks (such as INFORSE-Europe) have coordinated their activities in the energy and climate group of the European ECO-Forum.

To join this group, contact INFORSE-Europe. at e-mail: ove@inforse.dk