* Denmark says green growth the only way forward
* Commission estimates show current text greatly diluted
* Ministers agree on green vision, haggle over firm goals
By Barbara Lewis
HORSENS, Denmark, April 18 EU ministers must not
throw away the chance to create thousands of jobs and spur the
economy, the EU's climate chief said on Wednesday, ahead of
talks in Denmark to tackle deadlock on a planned energy saving
The Danish European Union presidency has said the Energy
Efficiency Directive is a priority for its six months at the
head of EU debate, which ends in June.
But it has also said it is a huge challenge, as member
states and some from big business niggle over the upfront cost
of measures, such as better insulation.
Ahead of informal energy talks on Thursday in Horsens,
Denmark, Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said ministers
bore a responsibility not to waste the chance to drive growth
and jobs - for instance in building renovation.
The planned law would also cut domestic utility bills and
curb national imports of oil and gas.
"If Europe does not step up its green economy efforts, we
risk losing an immense source of quality jobs. This is the very
clear message from the European Commission today," she said in a
"If we water down our efforts on energy efficiency, we water
down the job potential as well."
A Commission analysis, seen by Reuters, found the draft law
in its current state, following objections from member states,
would deliver only 38 percent of the Commission's original
The Commission also has published figures showing the
planned law could create around half a million jobs and 34
billion euros in gross domestic product in 2020.
As member states are divided, so is business. Members of the
European Parliament have said they, along with other officials,
have been lobbied by utilities, worried about the impact on
their earnings and the cost of measures such as insulation.
Others in business support energy efficiency. Some of the
most committed have formed the European Alliance to Save Energy,
which brings together multinational companies including Siemens
, Philips and Schneider Electric.
It has written to all the EU's energy ministers.
The letter seen by Reuters, said the law "not as a burden",
but "an opportunity to help the EU to reach its energy savings
and climate targets, drive growth and create jobs".
"The adoption of a framework of long-term and clear measures
will send a credible and strong signal to the business community
and Europe's partners that the European Union remains committed
to develop an internal market for low carbon technologies and
systems," it said.
Energy savings is the only one of three EU 2020
environmental targets the EU is officially not expected to meet.
The current rate of progress would cut energy use, compared
with projected levels, by around 10 percent - half the EU's goal
of 20 percent by 2020.
The aim of the energy savings law is to close the gap, but
objections from member states have, for instance, led to a cut
in the number of public buildings that would need to be
renovated and made savings calculations less rigorous.
Climate Action Network Europe, which brings together
non-governmental organisations, sent a note to the ministers.
"Whittling away every article of the directive will help
no-one except the fossil fuel exporters that benefit from
Europe's energy wastefulness," it said.
Thursday's talks will be informal, so there will be no
Wednesday's environment talks, also informal, were less
problematic. Officials said they achieved virtual consensus on
the need for a Seventh Environmental Action plan to follow the
sixth, which runs out this year.
The next plan would be designed to give a broad framework
for sustainable law-making, including on issues such as water,
waste management and biodiversity.
"There was a huge measure of agreement that in spite of our
economic crisis, the green economy is not just one way forward,
it is the only way forward," Danish Environment Minister Ida
Auken told reporters.
(Editing by William Hardy)