France, Spain call for changes as EU energy prices rise

BRUSSELS (AP) – France and Spain pushed on Monday for changes to the rules governing the European Union’s energy markets as gas and electricity prices rise, pushing up already high utility bills and further tightening the belts of those hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

European governments are scrambling to find ways to keep costs down to consumers, as scarce natural gas reserves expose the continent to price spikes and possible shortages if the winter is cold. Natural gas prices are lower in the United States, which produces its own, while Europe has to rely on imports.

“The price of gas has increased massively and sharply in recent weeks. This is clearly an issue of great concern to all of us. It is unfair. It is inefficient and it is very costly ”, declared the French Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire, before meeting his counterparts from the 19 countries using the common currency, the euro.

“It’s time to take a look at the European energy market,” Le Maire told reporters.

Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino, whose country has been among the hardest hit by soaring energy prices, said “it’s not a problem we can solve nationally” .

“We need a coordinated European response,” Calvino told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg. She urged the executive branch of the EU, the European Commission, to “take decisive and urgent action to resolve this problem”.

Energy analysts attribute the problem to limited supplies of natural gas used to generate electricity, high demand, especially in Asia, and higher costs for permits to emit carbon dioxide under the scheme. Europe’s fight against climate change.

But EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the broad package of measures to tackle global warming – the EU green deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 over 1990 levels – “is not the problem, but it is an important part of the solution.”

Gentiloni said the commission “will shortly present a toolbox of measures to mitigate the impact” of soaring energy prices. He urged countries to take only temporary and targeted measures to help those hardest hit, in line with Europe’s goal of moving to a carbon-free economy.

Nearly 3 million European workers currently cannot afford to heat their homes, according to the European Trade Union Confederation. A study carried out last month by the ETUC, which represents 45 million members, showed that 15% of the working poor in the EU – or 2.7 million people – do not have enough money to turn on the heat .

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Follow all of AP’s stories on climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-change.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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