Rising energy prices hijack EU debate on green overhaul

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(Bloomberg) – Unprecedented surge in natural gas and electricity prices pushes ahead of the European Union’s political agenda after hijacking a meeting of member states on the bloc’s ambitious transition to a green economy .

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Ministers from most of the region’s 27 countries, from Sweden to Greece, expressed concerns at their meeting in Slovenia on Wednesday over energy prices reaching record highs. Rates have skyrocketed just as the bloc’s economies are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, which could slow political discussions on delivering the EU’s strategy to achieve climate neutrality.

The energy crisis is expected to be added to the agenda when EU leaders meet for a summit on October 21-22 after several countries, led by Spain, pushed for it, according to an official from the EU. EU knowing the file. Romania, Italy, Poland and Hungary have also called for the topic to be discussed then, according to a European Commission official.

“We are considering specific short-term and temporary measures that will protect our European consumers from some of the worst price increases,” Eamon Ryan, Irish Minister for Energy and Transport, said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “I think there was a broad agreement today that needs to be center stage lest we lose our audience for the biggest transformative change we need to make.”

The commission, the EU’s executive body, will announce in the coming weeks an overview of measures Member States can take to tackle the energy crisis, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said. Under bloc law, the commission has limited powers in the area of ​​energy, which remains largely in the hands of national governments.

“We asked the European Commission to start in-depth discussions with Member States on the causes that led to the surge in energy prices, both for electricity and gas, and to identify the appropriate solutions at EU level “, said Romanian Energy Minister Virgil Popescu. said on Facebook.

At their meeting in Slovenia, ministers were due to discuss bills proposed by the European Commission to increase the share of renewable energies and increase energy savings as part of a stricter target to reduce emissions here. 2030.

They raised questions of price volatility and the impact of soaring energy costs on public support for clean change, a person familiar with the talks said. Some were concerned about the social consequences of the EU’s proposal to expand the region’s carbon market to include fossil fuels used in transport and buildings, said the person, who declined to be identified because the meeting is private.

Earlier this week, Spain warned the European Commission that the energy crisis could hamper public support for the Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate neutral continent in the world by 2050. In a document aiming to trigger a wider discussion on the EU, Spain suggested creating a central platform for purchasing natural gas. This would strengthen the EU’s bargaining power and limit its dependence on suppliers such as Russia.

Poland on Wednesday asked the committee to take a closer look at what it suspects is market manipulation by Russian gas exporter Gazprom, according to another person familiar with the talks. He also wants the EU to use its foreign investment screening regulations to check whether the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline complies with the bloc’s rules, the person said.

In the UK, which is also heavily affected by the gas shortage, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he was holding daily meetings with energy regulator Ofgem to monitor the market and “start processes. aimed at protecting consumers ”.

(Updates to Irish Energy Minister’s commentary in fourth paragraph.)

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