Climate change and energy issues have gone to the top of the EU's political agenda, as demonstrated by several Brussels conferences last week.

Climate change and energy issues are increasingly becoming the dominant themes in political Brussels. The upcoming revision of the EU's greenhouse-gas emissions trading scheme (ETS) as well as the Commission's expected critical review of related national allocation plans are the immediate drivers of this new focus. The recent Stern Report on the economics of climate change has added to the urgency of discussing the Union's policies in these two areas.

A policy summit "Energy Europe" organised by Friends of Europe focused on the twin challenges of energy supply and climate change. In his keynote speech, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas promised a very tough review of the second-phase national allocation plans within the next few weeks. "I am not going to let the ETS suffer because of irresponsible authorities," Dimas warned. In an ensuing discussion on the impact of energy/climate change issues on the EU's external relations agenda, Jon-Pol Poncelet of energy company AREVA underlined the need to have a European debate on the revival of nuclear power. He also saw a need to re-examine the role of governments in the debate about Europe's energy liberalisation.

Laura Cozzi, Principle Energy Analyst of the International Energy Agency presented the main conclusions of the EIA's World Energy Outlook 2006. She criticised lack of real "implementation of sustainable energy policies". Joost Van Roost of ExxonMobil drew attention to the role technology will have to play in finding a solution to energy-supply and climate-change challenges. In the context of this conference, Friends of Europe and Gallup Europe produced a survey of about 200 high-level EU and US policy leaders showing that the respondents are very pessimistic about the long-term outlook for energy security.

EU and US leaders were evenly split on the question whether their foreign policies will diverge as a result of competition for scarce resources. In the European Parliament, the Green Group organised another stakeholder conference and launched a new study on energy and climate change scenarios for the EU. The study, written for the Green Group by the renowned German Öko-Institut demonstrates that "it is possible to achieve ambitious climate targets - emissions reductions of 30% by 2020 and 40% by 2030 - without nuclear expansion. The Greens also called for a "Pact for climate and energy security".

The importance of the climate change issue was also highlighted by a visit of Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the economic impact study released by the UK government. The former World Bank Chief Economist visited the Commission and briefed several commissioners (Dimas, Piebalgs), as well as the general secretariat and other departments on the recommendations of his report. In a related conference organised in the evening of 9 November by Brussels think tank CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), Professor Stern met with a selected group of industry leaders, NGOs and media.