Trade publications and financial news sources are taking note of the European Commission's efforts to create energy efficiency standards by 2007. Announced after Al Gore's hero's welcome to Brussels, Europe has made clear that under a voluntary agreement with industries, 14 priority products, including computers, stereo systems, washing machines, lights, air-conditioning, and boilers, will be designed with a focus on conserving energy. The European Executive Commission, author of the draft standard, says the new rules could save 180 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, and put EU nations 'on course for a 20 per cent energy saving by 2020'. The Commission will monitor industry's progress towards agreeing on common standards. It can threaten to impose energy efficient criteria later. "The Commission will prepare studies on the improvements we need to make," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told a news conference. "By the second half of 2007, we should be able to adopt the first eco-design requirements for products." The Energy Commissioner has stated, "special attention will be devoted to standby loss reduction," to which we respond 'about time.'Naturally, some US-based companies hate the draft standard because, per the Financial Times story cited above, "Stringent new European Commission energy efficiency targets for items such as electrical appliances and cars could set global standards, since all imports into the European market would have to comply". Ideally implemented, the standard would mean that a GE model dish washer marketed in the US can be compared to any model or brand sold in Europe in terms of both the manufacturing- and the use-phases of product life. At that point, consumers will be able to see the value of spending more to save energy on an imported product. Imagine how easy we TreeHugger writers will have it writing our product postings!
Predictably, NGO's are on record decrying what they imply is the futility of the Commission's voluntary approach toward meeting Kyoto Convention goals. So, where is the middle ground on this proposal going to end up?
Thank goodness for "Old Europe." As a result of this 25-nation effort, we need not waste our server space, or your time, with negative critiques of the US Administration's so-far meager energy efficiency standards. After the European standard-setting dust settles, should the targets be widely missed, there will be plenty of opportunity for ratcheting down with a 'command and control' regime. The important thing now is to get a globally-impacting consensus process underway — and let's be mindful that we have less than a decade to get serious — avoiding, through a voluntary starting point as Europe has, US charges of protectionism that might otherwise be brought under world trade agreements. In other words, the Eropean Commission seems to be thinking globally, and acting strategically toward 2008. Clever.
Things left to ponder: will Governor Arnold fly to Brussels to compare notes? Will he be welcomed as a California regulatory standard setting hero? Will this shape US presidential campaigns for the 2008 election season?
Photo Credit: European Heat Wave depiction from NASA Earth Observatory