Leo Platvoet

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Energy systems and the environment

(doc 10486)

plenary session 26 April 2005

The report on ‘Energy systems and the environment’ is a very important report because the production and consumption of energy is one of the biggest threats and opportunities for sustainable development.

A threat where the production of energy is exhausting the natural sources or, in case of nuclear energy, is a great risk to the environment in case of a crash and the impossibility to find a sustainable solution for storing the waste.

But it’s also an opportunity, when the western world takes the Kyoto protocol serious as well as the recent Millenium-report of the United Nations, that it is absolute necessary to develop renewable energy systems.

The report of mr Etherington –and the draft resolution – do all kind good proposals for technical measures, fiscal measures and educational and information measures to decrease the environmental impact of energy production, transport and consumption.

The use of renewable sources such as the use of biomass, hydropower, solar, wind and tidal energy should be the hard core business of the energy policy in the Western countries. However as the report shows, it’s very disappointing that in many Westeuropean countries the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources is very low. In Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, UK it’s lower than 10%. That’s very disappointing because, for instance in my own country, the discussion on the need of the use of renewable energy systems is now going on for 30 years, there is a big support for ‘green’ energy, but the political will is too soft and the power of the traditional energy producers is too strong.

The production of nuclear energy is the main issue in the report on ‘Europe’s growing energy vulnerability’. This report, written by mr Radu on behalf of the Committee on Economic Affairs, has a positive approach to nuclear energy. The report of mr Etherington, also a socialist but on behalf of the Committee on the environment, has a far more critical approach. You can say: it’s the old struggle between economy and the environment.

I think, the Assemblee can’t adopt both reports and both resolutions, where there is a different approach on such an important issue.

Of course, nuclear energy can avoid the increase of air pollution by greenhouse gasses, but the risks of a crash, the impossibility of safe storing the nuclear waste and the relation with nuclear weapons are of a much greater importance to be avoided.

The increase of air pollution by greenhouse gasses can also be reached by lowering the consumption of energy and by stimulating the production of renewable sources.

Energy saving in homes, public buildings, offices and industries should be a great challenge. There is much more to do in this field. Together with stimulating renewable sources this will for certain lead to intelligent, new, clean technologies which benefits the environment but which benefits also sustainable economic growth.