In its drive to get us all to do our bit to combat climate change, the European Commission has adopted a pithy slogan: "Turn down. Switch off. Recycle. Walk." It seems, however, that Europe’s functionaries are reluctant to comply with the second of these four edicts.
Photographs passed to the Financial Times show several of the EU’s most illustrious buildings – including the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers’ Justus Lipsius building – lit up like Christmas trees in the middle of the night. The Committee of the Regions is incandescent.
The pictures, taken at the behest of the European Lamp Companies Federation, have surfaced as Europe’s energy ministers convene in Brussels to vote on the Commission’s action plan for energy efficiency. The draft conclusions declare that "the public sector should play an exemplary role" in fostering energy efficiency.
The action plan – which activists fear may be watered down by ministers – is intended to sketch out how Europe could cut its energy consumption by a fifth by 2020 through switching to greener technologies and adopting such energy efficient habits as, say, turning out the lights.
Barbara Helfferich, the Commission’s environment spokeswoman, says the images should not detract from the overall decline in the electricity used by Commission buildings. A strict eco-management pilot scheme is under way, complete with targets to render the EU’s activities greener. The scheme has, Ms Helfferich adds, "sensitised personnel to switch to more environmentally-friendly behaviour".