Has the EU Signaled a New Strategy for Energy and Climate Change?

The Wall Street Journal has stated that the European Union is reviewing a report that signals its backing away from a commitment to restricting the growth in emissions of CO2.  The reported rationale is the impact of such restrictions on the competitiveness of European businesses in the face of a lack of cooperation with other major, global energy-intensive countries like the US and China.  If so, the signal may be more important as one of the EU’s position on international cooperation rather than one of its withdrawing from leadership on climate change.

If this report is accurate and it is released, it would be consistent with the underlying elements of another report – Security of Supply and International Cooperation – which was released just a few weeks ago.  That report focused on the essentials of international cooperation on several fronts associated with energy.  Among them was the need for increased collaboration on technology development.  I have long argued for the development of international, collaborative research models and processes.  They have the potential to contribute to more rapid advances in research that can lead to new, market-based technologies.  New market-based technologies drive economic growth, and with it job growth and prosperity.

The European Science Foundation is a very important player in establishing a research agenda in Europe, as is the Chinese Academy of Sciences with which I have worked in the past.  Developing a model of collaboration among them and US research agencies such as the National Science Foundation has much potential, despite the challenges of intellectual property and the difficulty of reaching agreements on funding.  The good news is that Secretary Chu has already initiated cooperative efforts.  A recent example was the cooperative funding of the US-China Clean Coal Research Center, led by West Virginia University in the US.  This effort, among other important goals, will address the past culture of distrust that has inhibited international research collaboration.

Reported Scientific American,  “The agreement, officials said, is meant to cut through a culture of distrust that has kept American and Chinese scientists and companies from collaborating on potential solutions to the knottiest energy issues. China and the United States are the world’s biggest users of energy and producers of greenhouse gas emissions tied to global warming.”  If it is successful, it will add to the signals coming from the EU about the need for international cooperation in energy.

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