Funding a low-carbon future

Europe needs to spend an extra 50 billion euros on developing clean energy over the next 10 years, nearly triple its current investment, according to the EU’s latest estimate.

In a plan for allocating the money, the commission calls for 16 billion euros for solar power over the next 10 years, 13 billion euros for carbon capture and storage, seven billion euros for nuclear and six billion euros for wind.

Boosting investment in clean energy technology will speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy – essential to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the EU’s dependence on imported oil and gas, the plan says.

While 50 billion euros may seem like a tall order with the economy barely out of recession, experts agree that the large-scale investment will pay off. The market for the technology is exploding, offering the prospect of massive earnings and millions of jobs for countries that take an early lead.

“Increasing smart investment in research today is an opportunity to develop new sources of growth, to green our economy and to ensure the EU’s competitiveness when we come out of the crisis,” said Janez Potocnik, commissioner for science and research.

The plan underscores the EU’s commitment to fighting climate change ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December. The goal of the meeting is to produce a new and more ambitious international commitment to containing global warming. The current treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires at the end of 2012.

The plan is to select some two dozen European cities to pioneer green technologies.

Fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal account for up to 80 per cent of the EU’s current energy supply. More than 50 per cent of the EU’s energy comes from countries outside the bloc.