Saving energy represents the most effective way for Europe to reduce climate changing emissions. There are also many other benefits to cutting energy consumption, like saving money, creating jobs, and reducing our dependency on imports and fossil fuels. The cheapest, cleanest and safest energy is the energy a country doesn't actually need.
Unfortunately policies to promote energy efficiency remain marginalised and often ineffective. Friends of the Earth Europe believes that as long as energy saving policies are optional they will not receive the priority they need.
To turn this round and deliver the benefits of energy savings, Friends of the Earth Europe is campaigning for legally binding targets for 2020. We think energy savings must be put on an equal footing with Europe's emission reduction and renewable energy targets.
Friends of the Earth groups around Europe are calling for binding EU energy saving targets, and strong social policies at the local and national level to ensure that every country contributes to saving energy.
Because four fifths of the EU's energy comes from highly emitting fossil fuels, the fastest way to counter climate change is to reduce energy use. If Europe can cut its energy use by 20 per cent by 2020 it will save 800 million tons of CO2 (equivalent to 20 per cent CO2 cuts below 2005 levels) between now and 2020.
This is not enough on its own to solve the climate crisis, but it would give us a higher chance of stopping the worst impacts of climate change. The first step must be for the EU to set a binding energy savings target.
The EU is one of the most energy dependent regions of the world. Cutting energy use means Europe can reduce its over-consumption of resources – we are already using more than our fair share.
Building new pipelines and scrambling for alternative supplies simply locks us into ongoing fossil fuel dependence. Reducing energy use is the solution to Europe's energy security problems - but we need a legally binding target if we're going to put energy savings before new pipelines.
Bringing the EU's energy consumption back down to 1990 levels would save over €1000 per year per household in reduced energy bills, according to the European Commission. Across Europe, this adds up to savings of over €200 billion every year between now and 2020.
Reducing energy use helps fix longstanding social inequalities. Millions of poorer households across Europe currently spend far too much of their income on energy, mostly for heating and transport. We need to stop spending more and more on imported energy and power plants, and use the money to pay for what people really need: better and more sustainable living standards.