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US, EU start 'clean energy economy' talks

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 4, 2009
The United States and the European Union opened high-level talks Wednesday aimed at boosting chances of switching "to a clean, sustainable energy economy," US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

Cabinet ministers from both sides, in Washington for the first meeting of the US-EU Energy Council, discussed tackling energy security and markets, energy policies and regulation, energy technologies and research cooperation.

Participants said their talks will promote technological efforts to cut sharply the carbon emissions blamed for climate change as a UN-backed climate summit in Copenhagen prepares to meet next month and set new emissions targets.

"We hope that it will be the first of many, in a long series of meetings, that... would substantially improve both the EU and the United States ability to transition to a clean, sustainable energy economy," Chu told participants.

"These transitions are extremely important, both for our energy security, for our mutual economic development, and of course, for the climate of the world," he said at the opening of the council at the US State Department.

Sweden's minister of enterprise and energy Maud Olofsson, seated next to Chu, said such cooperation will send an "important signal to the world that EU and US are ready to make things happen when it comes to the climate change."

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

"I also think it's a strong signal, ahead of what's happening in Copenhagen, that we can do concrete things when it comes to energy," Olofsson said.

The December 7-18 talks in Copenhagen aim to seal a UN treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol before it expires in 2012, but negotiators fear chances for such a treaty have almost vanished.

Hosting a summit with EU leaders on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said it was "imperative to redouble our efforts" to combat global warming.

Olofsson later told reporters that climate change presents a "golden opportunity" for joint EU-US efforts to help companies and society save energy and reduce costs, develop new technologies, and create new energy markets.

Richard Morningstar, the special US envoy for Eurasian Energy, said the talks here launched an "open and deep dialogue on strategic energy issues, on energy policy issues, on questions relating to research and technology."

He said the private sector will have a "very significant role" in the work of the US-EU Energy Council.

"We need private sector advice when looking at policy issues as well as some of the regulatory issues that might come up," he said, citing areas like carbon capture and sequestration or so-called smart grids.

He also said the talks will also touch on the future of nuclear energy, although each country will formulate different policies on the sensitive topic.

"Nuclear power will be part of the equation and it's going to depend on the country," Morningstar said in a conference telephone call with reporters in Washington.

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