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EU economic rescue plan puts focus on efficiency

(26 Nov 08) Barroso says leaders must turn crisis into opportunity to accelerate towards low-carbon economy.

The European commission has proposed a major European economic recovery package that would refocus attention on energy efficiency and greener products.  It would also give financial aid to the automobile industry through a new "green cars" initiative.

The plan was announced by commission president José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday and calls for a €200bn "injection of purchasing power" into the EU economy.  Mr Barroso wants heads of government to back the package at a summit in Brussels next month.

"If this [plan] is put into place quickly and comprehensively, we can transform the crisis into an opportunity…we can relaunch the EU's long-term efforts to become a twenty-first century low-carbon, energy-efficient economy," he said.

The commission lists ten priority EU actions to help the bloc through its economic difficulties.  One of these focuses on greener buildings.  Governments should respond positively to recent proposals to revise EU building energy efficiency rules, and consider cutting property taxes for more efficient buildings, it says.  The commission also envisages a €1bn partnership between the public and private sectors to "radically reduce" building energy use.

A second priority aims to promote more rapid take-up of greener products.  The commission says it will propose lower EU sales taxes for greener products and services, a move it had been hesitating over despite enthusiastic calls from some member states.  It also says it will "urgently" propose new environmental standards for major energy-using appliances under the eco-design (EuP) directive.

A second proposed public-private partnership would see €5bn go to the car industry, ostensibly to help it develop greener cars.  ENDS understands that next week the European investment bank will propose further aid to the industry of €16bn over four years.  

Car industry body Acea welcomed the help as a "first step", though the combined amount falls short of its earlier appeals. Campaign group T&E said no money should not be granted until the industry had embraced EU plans to introduce limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new cars.

In a separate reaction to the commission plan, engineering industries federation Orgalime said it was "dismayed" by indications that the commission was still pushing ahead with imminent proposals for a legislative revision of the EU's Weee and RoHS directives on environmental aspects of electrical and electronic equipment.

Follow-up: Barroso speech, press release, background memo and plan details .  See also reactions from Acea, T&E and Orgalime.

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