Europe urged to ditch rhetoric and tackle energy inequality


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Europe must put low-income households at the heart of its future policy to address a “growing energy divide”, a damning report from the charity National Energy Action (NEA)  warns today.

But this must not come at the expense of the environment, it added, ahead of a meeting of the region’s leaders later this week to decide Europe’s energy policy priorities until 2030.

The move follows a recent call from the International Energy Agency, which highlighted that improving energy efficiency measures could save the European Union’s economy as much as €190bn (£150bn) a year as well as dramatically enhancing health and well-being.

Improved energy efficiency would particularly benefit vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses.

“We use far more energy than we need to yet the EU Commission has not proposed setting an ambitious binding target on energy saving,” said Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP.

“There are significant and growing costs to inaction and beyond positive rhetoric, the EU Commission, EU Parliament and council leaders must take action now to address the growing energy divide.”

The report suggests that the EU’s current energy legislative framework can be improved for low-income consumers.

“Energy policies can exacerbate hardship,” said the report’s author, Peter Smith, of NEA. “In particular the current approach to energy policy across Europe contributes to an energy divide where poorer households benefit least from energy policies while paying a higher share of the costs, despite emitting the least emissions.”

For example, EU member states give significant tax and levy exemptions to some of the most energy-intensive industries which substantially reduces the costs heavy polluters have to pay.

The report also calls for EU states to increase the promotion and accessibility of programmes to help low-income households to replace less efficient appliances.