Energy and environment ministers met this week in London to discuss the challenge of creating lower carbon energy systems to combat climate change over the next 50 years.
UK chancellor Gordon Brown set the tone with his keyote speech about the relationship between economic development, energy investment and climate change, while the department for environment food and rural affairs (Defra)'s secretary of state Margaret Beckett pointed out the potential economic benefits of energy efficiency.
"The round table will consider the scale of energy demand over the next 50 years and identify practical opportunities which exist to meet these needs through investment in lower carbon energy systems," she said.
"For example, we already know that energy efficiency will be crucial to reducing emissions now and into the future, and we know these measures save money for business and consumers.
"The round table is an opportunity to explore what more can be done internationally to motivate much greater investment in efficient technologies."
The roundtable discussion coincided with the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform's presentation of its proposals for the development of hydrogen and fuel cells for carrying and converting clean energy.
Europe faces the challenge of fluctuating oil prices, concerns about global warming and growth in energy demand. Hydrogen could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve local air quality and enhance the security of energy supply.
Hydrogen is most often seen as a future energy source for transport, but it could also conceivably be used extensively to power factories and plants in the future, something that could interest food manufacturers. There is a great deal of legislative pressure on plant managers to cut emissions, and this technology could one day provide the answer.
"Low carbon technologies must be the basis of future economic growth, particularly in developing countries, if we are to stand any chance of tackling climate change in the next 50 years," said Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry.
"Deploying renewable energy, developing clean coal technology, and exploiting carbon capture and storage will not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also create jobs that will directly benefit the environment."
Manufacturers have been on the front line in the EU's attempts to drive down emissions. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is just one of the policies being introduced across Europe to tackle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and combat the serious threat of climate change.
Emissions trading is a key component of UK and wider European action to tackle climate change. It gives industry an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, whilst enabling them to do so at least cost. Last year, the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reported that food and drink companies had managed to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 160,000 tonnes since 2001.
However, emissions by UK installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for the first phase (2005-7) are now estimated to be around 56 million tonnes CO2 (or 7.6 per cent) higher than was the case when the country's national Action Plan was submitted to the Commission in April 2004.