Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The greening of EU businesses

Can you, in your wildest dreams, imagine President George W. Bush convening a week-long "Green Week" for leaders representing the private sector, government and nongovernmental organizations across the U.S. to talk about the nation's environmental challenges and related business opportunities?

Of course not.

But imagine the possibilities for improving the environment and U.S. economy if such a meeting were to occur. (GW)

EU sees green future for business

12 June 2007

Environment ministers from the EU-27 have set out to convince business that an ambitious environmental policy is what's needed to fire up Europe's economy, ahead of a four-day conference on green issues, hosted by the Commission.


Learning from past successes and failures to ensure that current and future environmental challenges are addressed more effectively is the goal of this year's Green Week, the European Commission's annual conference and exhibition event dedicated to the environment.

The main accent will predictably be on tackling global warming, following EU governments' bold commitment to slash CO2 emissions by 20% in 2020 and to go even further if the US and other economic powers are willing to follow suit (EurActiv 9/03/07).


The event will run from 12-15 June 2007 in Brussels and bring together public authorities, international organisations, businesses and academia to debate the main environmental challenges facing Europe today – climate change, environment and health issues, natural-resources depletion, waste policy and biodiversity – as well as their economic and social implications.

Ahead of the meeting, EU environment ministers sought to convince European industry – increasingly concerned about the impact of the EU's solitary fight against climate change on their capacity to compete worldwide – that an ambitious environmental policy is not only an imperative for mankind but also an important economic opportunity and "an essential part of modernising the economy".


Environmental technologies and eco-innovations are "one of the strongest pillars of Europe’s economy" and offer a large window of opportunity for global trade, with a world market worth €1,000 billion, EU environment ministers said at an informal meeting in Essen on 2 June.

"As population increases, globalisation continues and more and more technologically advanced countries compete over growth and employment, the ability to serve green markets will clearly become a crucial element of economic success," they added, promising a review of the EU's Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, in Spring 2008, so as better to reflect the environmental dimension of Europe's industrial policy.

"Europe’s efforts to become the world's most competitive economy need to be adjusted. Tomorrow's economic competitiveness will, to a large extent, be based on energy and resource efficiency. Europe's ability to develop appropriate technological solutions will determine its economic position in the world. The key to future jobs, growth and wealth, as well as to protecting the environment, will be fast and efficient eco-innovation," said ministers.

While European business associations are conscious of the climate-change problem and have committed to finding a solution, they remain concerned by Europe's plan to go it alone.

The European SME association UEAPME said that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy sources "may encourage innovation and reduce environmental damages in the long run. However, these measures may also lead to increased costs and weaken companies' competitiveness in the short term." It called on the EU to seek a worldwide consensus and avoid "one-sided measures, which would not bring benefits to the environment and would damage Europe's competitiveness".

"Europe cannot 'do it alone'. Europe, especially without the US, would not be able to change the climate but would harm the competitiveness of our economy," stressed the organisation.

It called for economic rationality in the promotion of renewable energy. "Europe has to create a regulatory environment, which sets the right incentives," it said, calling for investments, research and subsidies to be channelled towards renewable energy, without any negative discrimination for decentralised small projects.

President of BusinessEurope Ernest-Antoine Seillière agreed: "Unilateral measures will not solve global environmental issues, while they can certainly hurt the position of European industries in global competition. The way towards true sustainable development will come through European climate change diplomacy which succeeds in finding a global strategy, including all major players. Only then will Europe's leadership have a noticeable impact on global environmental protection, and only then will Europe be able to enjoy the competitiveness advantages of its strong eco-innovation industries."


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