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Brussels, 7 March 2003

EU and US to work together in energy and climate change research

Yesterday in Brussels, European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin met Mr Spencer Abraham, Secretary of State at the US Department of Energy. They discussed EU-US scientific co-operation in research on climate change and energy issues, such as the co-operation on nuclear fusion through the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, the EURATOM programme, with the signing of a co-operation agreement, hydrogen and fuel cells, and carbon (CO2) capture and storage. They agreed joint research activities should be reinforced. American universities, research centres and enterprises will participate in environmental and energy research projects under the €17.5 billion EU 6th Research Framework Programme (2003-2006). Each party will bear its own costs. Commissioner Busquin also discussed EU-US scientific co-operation during the visit of Mr John H Marburger, Science Advisor to the US President on March 5th

"Co-operation with the United States on climate change and energy research is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and overall atmospheric pollution," said Commissioner Busquin. "Although we have different views on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, we believe there is scope for joint initiatives in the research field. Europe and the United States both have cutting-edge knowledge and great industrial potential. They are key partners in the scientific and technological field. Through co-ordinated action in the energy and environment research area they can jointly address the scientific issues that affect the everyday lives of our citizens. I urge scientists to seize these new opportunities for joint research activities."

EU-US scientific co-operation

American universities, scientific institutions and enterprises can participate in EU research programmes. They have to pay for their share of the project's budget. Joint projects carried out to date cover materials research, including nanotechnology, earthquake engineering, digital libraries, multi-lingual engineering systems, metrology, gas turbines, high-speed networking, climate change, geological storage of CO2 and infrastructure protection amongst others. The EU is also co-operating with NASA on a series of projects, including monitoring of ozone loss over the Arctic.

Hydrogen and Fuel cells

In the field of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, the US and EU also have important on-going activities and a mutual interest in enhancing co-operation. The EU is working with a High Level Group of Experts on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, convened at the request of Commissioners Busquin and de Palacio, with the support of President Prodi, for the purpose of developing a vision and strategy for the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the next 20 years.

The 5th EU Research Framework Programme (FP5 1998-2002) devoted €120 million to hydrogen and fuel cell research. In the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006), research on energy and transport will be undertaken under the thematic priority "Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems" for which a total budget of €2,120 billion has been earmarked. It is envisaged that the budget for research on fuel cells, including their applications and hydrogen technologies, will be increased substantially compared with FP5.

Through this funding effort the Commission intends to enhance the leverage effect on and co-operation with national programmes to reach a critical mass of research in this field.

The "Vision Report" from the High Level Group is expected in May 2003 and will be presented at a conference to be held in Brussels in June 2003. The Commission will respond to the Report with recommendations and guidelines for further initiatives.

Nuclear research

As far as nuclear energy is concerned, the US has come back to the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) fusion programme. ITER negotiating partners now include the European Union, Japan, Russia, Canada, the US, and China. Currently the EU fusion programme amounts to €750 million, which includes a contribution of €200 million for the launch of the ITER initiative. During his visit to Brussels, Mr Abraham also discussed with Commissioner Busquin the progress in research into developing the next generation of nuclear fission reactors. EU-US co-operation within the EURATOM programme has also been addressed with the signing of a new nuclear co-operation agreement.

Climate change research

A EU-US joint meeting on climate change science and technology research was held in Washington on 5-6 February 2003, in the framework of the EU-US High Level Dialogue on Climate Change. Areas for potential co-operation identified during the meeting include carbon cycle research, aerosol-climate interactions, feedbacks, including water vapour and thermohaline circulation, integrated observation systems and data, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen technology and infrastructure. A follow-up meeting is expected to take place later this year. The Commission and the relevant US agencies will meet shortly to review progress and plan specific activities, including simultaneous joint calls for tenders, for 2003 and 2004.

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