Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-03-26-Speech-3-013"

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"Mr President, one thing is certain: without the pressure of collective action and accountability, Member States would lack the will to act on climate change, yet the inconvenient truth for the EU is that the summit conclusions are often long on rhetoric and short on delivery. We can already see signs of Member States looking for ways to cut corners and costs on last year’s political commitments, even though the Stern report of 2006 warned that the costs of action now will be far less than the costs of inaction later. Some of the language in the final conclusion suggests that the urgency and imperative of responding to climate change is already waning. This would spell disaster, both for our climate and for our credibility. Somewhat overlooked in this debate is energy efficiency, the simplest and most cost-effective way of reducing our overall emissions. An early draft of the Council conclusions committed Member States to a 10% reduction in energy use in government buildings and car fleets, yet now reads simply as ‘substantial progress’. It would be a small but significant gesture showing that governments are leading by example. Fiscal instruments to stimulate better environmental behaviour should indeed be exploited. ETS has proved its worth and been taken up as a global standard for providing economic incentives for emission reductions. Green taxes such as reduced VAT rates can also have a similar effect, by stimulating demand for low consumption vehicles and domestic appliances. Turning to the economic aspects of the summit, the conclusions boast that the fundamentals of the EU economy remain sound, yet this is not how the outlook is perceived by many of our citizens facing higher bills and growing indebtedness, which should caution us against excessive optimism. The underlying principles of the Lisbon Strategy are worth recalling: structural reforms, fiscal discipline and targeted investments in productive areas that will deliver future growth. EU Member States remain – with one or two honourable exceptions – well short of their commitment to spend 3% of their GDP on R&D. Now we talk of a fifth freedom for knowledge and innovation, but we should not forget that we have not yet managed to complete the original four freedoms, especially in the area of free movement of labour and services across the whole of the EU. Finally, support for SMEs is rightly identified as key to economic growth and innovation. We must enable them to reap the full benefit of the internal market, yet the Council could achieve much for European competitiveness by bringing the long-running disputes over a European patent and private company statute to a successful conclusion. The Council conclusions cautiously declare that the challenge is to deliver. Parliament, for its part, certainly will."@en1

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