On Thursday, 23 November, the EU Energy Council will respond to the European Commission's Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. The European Environmental Bureau, Europe 's largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations, fears that ministers will ignore the best tool for systematically promoting energy efficiency, environmental tax reform. "The Action Plan has various good proposals to ensure that the EU, despite its expanding economy, will use one per cent less energy each year. Besides measures such as setting standards for energy use for equipment and improving the efficiency of energy production, price signals are essential to drive society in the right direction", said John Hontelez, EEB's Secretary General. "We fear that some governments' irresponsible attitude to coordinating environmental tax reform will result in the Council completely ignoring this point, which will effectively prevent the Action Plan from succeeding.

Sir Nicholas Stern's recent report for the British Government, 'The Economic Impacts of Climate Change', has given rise to bold confirmations from political leaders worldwide that fighting climate change is essential for future prosperity and global stability.

The Stern report is very clear that the most important horizontal measure is to ensure the market sends the right price signals so people are confronted with the full environmental costs of their actions. Sending the right signals would mean clean energy resources and energy saving would be rewarded, and reliance on fossil fuels discouraged. In a letter to ministers taking part in the EU Energy Council (please see following link : http://www.eeb.org/activities/General/EEB-Letter-Energy-Ministers-PermReps-141106.pdf ), EEB supports the Commission's view that "taxation, as a means to internalise external costs, is a powerful tool in promoting energy efficiency."

EEB calls on the Council fully to support this view and make the Commission's proposal more specific by switching the focus of taxation throughout the Union to benefit the environment, by committing themselves, over a decade, to shift ten percent of tax revenues away from labour and towards energy and resource use. Each country would be free to decide how to do this, thus respecting specific national tax and income systems. But the Commission must monitor and report on national commitments each year, following the Lisbon Process's political methodology.

EEB's letter also calls on ministers to ensure that all relevant existing EU laws, such as those on buildings' energy efficiency, are rigorously applied, and that the Council encourages the Commission to draft laws for fuel-efficient cars, since it is now clear that a voluntary agreement with the car-industry has not delivered on expectations.