From: Jan Sliva, Associated Press
Published April 25, 2007 12:00 AM

EU Greens Say Monthly Commute by EU Lawmakers Responsible for 20,000 Tons of CO2

STRASBOURG, France -- The monthly commute by European Union lawmakers from Brussels to its other seat in Strasbourg produces over 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, nearly as much as the entire CO2 output of some small island nations, according to a study published Wednesday.

A failure to change the arrangement "hastens climate change and undermines EU efforts to cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020," said Caroline Lucas, a British Green, who commissioned the study.

The findings were published as the EU assembly was voting to launch a committee expected to propose new measures to fight climate change.

Last month, the 27-nation bloc pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, when at least 20 percent of Europe's energy should come from renewable sources like wind, solar power, hydroelectricity and energy crops.

But not a single kilowatt-hour of energy running the three seats of the European Parliament comes from renewable sources, said Luxembourg lawmaker Claude Turmes, adding that the Greens would demand 100-percent green electricity for all parliamentary premises in the near future.

Members of the European Parliament and their staff are based in a sprawling complex of buildings in Brussels, but commute 450 kilometers (280 miles) to Strasbourg for four-day plenary sessions once a month, as do European commissioners.

The legislature's secretariat is in Luxembourg, halfway between Brussels and Strasbourg. This arrangement is a result of an EU treaty that meets France's demands that it be the site of an EU institution.

The commute costs European taxpayers euro206 million (US$280 million) and is responsible for at least 20,268 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, according to the study carried out by British environmentalist John Whitelegg, a professor at the University of York. The same amount is generated by some 4,000 London households or 13,000 return flights from London to New York, according to EU Greens.

"This figure is a conservative estimate and ... includes only transport and energy costs without examining other impacts. Actual emissions produced are likely to be far higher," the report said.

By comparison, the Pacific island nations of Kiribati and the Cook Islands each produce about 30,000 tons of CO2 a year.

The study totals the extra carbon emissions generated every month by parliamentarians, their staff, journalists and others on the move from Brussels and Luxembourg to Strasbourg and back -- a total of at least 3,000 people -- as well as the carbon costs of freight shuttled between the sites and the energy needed to maintain the parliament buildings.

It says that ending the Strasbourg sessions would make 2,650 offices, a debating chamber and nearly 50 conference rooms unnecessary.

"The Strasbourg operation imposes a very large climate-change burden. There are reasons why Parliament has evolved this way but the urgent need to take action on climate change requires a change of plan," Lucas said.

Source: Associated Press

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