BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe must take bold steps to strip carbon emissions out of its transport and electricity generation systems, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said on Thursday.
“We need to start working now on a radical pathway to reaching a far more sustainable Europe by 2020,” Barroso said in a policy document laying out his priorities if he wins a second five-year term.
“The next Commission needs to maintain the momentum toward a low emission economy, and in particular toward decarbonizing our electricity supply and the transport sector — all transport, including maritime transport and aviation, as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”
“Decarbonizing electricity supply and transport will also bring additional benefits in terms of security of energy supply,” he said in the document intended to ensure he wins the backing of the European Parliament.
Barroso has already won the backing of member states and no rival candidate has emerged, but needs the support of his Socialist, Liberal and Green opponents in the 736-member parliament to win a vote of approval.
The parliament has consistently taken a greener approach than the EU’s 27 heads of state during negotiations over the last two years over EU energy reform and measures to curb pollution from cars and industry.
The Green party, which has been fiercely critical of Barroso’s unchallenged return to power, said it would not comment until he had faced questions from its members at a meeting next week.
Environmental campaigners gave a guarded welcome to Barroso’s acknowledgement that climate change requires an urgent response.
“But many questions remain on how he is going to concretely put Europe’s economy on a sustainable pathway,” said Joris den Blanken of Greenpeace. “There is still no plan to reduce Europe’s depletion of natural resources like forests and fish.”
Barroso said cutting carbon emissions would have the added benefit of curbing reliance on costly oil and gas imports and could create jobs if European companies took advantage of their head-start.
“One of the next great European projects is to give Europe a new European supergrid for electricity and gas.... so that we have secure and stable supplies of energy which meet our climate change goals,” Barroso added.
The conservative former Portuguese prime minister highlighted recent progress toward building power connectors in the Baltic region and toward building the Nabucco pipeline to bring gas from the Caspian region.
“The next five years will not only need to see these projects come to fruition, but also new initiatives such as a Mediterranean interconnection plan, interconnections for gas, electricity and oil, as well as links between African suppliers and the EU. (Editing by Sue Thomas)