Leaders from the entire European Union are preparing for the COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference, which aims to stop climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This goal is a theoretical one that is getting further and further removed from the reality on the ground. Unbelievable obstacles are in the way of reaching 1.5°C, according to a UN environmental report released last month. The EU has long been regarded as a dependable supporter of the transition to a green economy due to its adoption of comprehensive policies and enshrinement of its 2050 carbon neutrality target in law. With other nations trying to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of climate legislation, the EU has evolved into a type of experimental laboratory.
The EU took the lead in last year’s conference’s initiatives to reduce methane emissions, safeguard tropical forests, and aid South Africa in its decarbonization. However, since Glasgow, things have changed. In the midst of a serious energy crisis that threatens to paralyze industry and put households under financial strain, European leaders are traveling to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Faced with the possibility of widespread blackouts and restrictions, nations have prioritized supply security even though doing so has a significant financial and environmental cost. Some of the member states were obliged to return to coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, as cheap Russian gas abruptly disappeared.
Plans to extend the lifespan of coal plants, reopen those that have been shut down, or raise the limit on coal-burning hours have all been declared by Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, and Hungary. Austria, which hailed the 2020 shutdown of its final coal plant, has suggested reactivating its system to address shortages in an emergency. The opposition opposed the plan during the summer. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the demand for energy drove a 10% increase in the EU’s coal consumption in the first half of 2022. As winter approaches, this trend is expected to continue.
In its July market update, published before to the extended shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the agency stated, “We expect coal consumption to also increase in the second half of the year, driven up by the need to store gas for winter amid uncertainty over Russian flows.” The report stated that “Germany will account for the highest extra consumption.” The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that coal consumption will reach 8 billion tonnes globally, reversing a downward trend and tying the record high established in 2013. Approximately 5% of this burning will take place in Europe. The EU’s aims for COP27, which include asking other nations to “close the book on unabated coal through a phasedown and stopping expensive fossil fuel subsidies,” appear to be at odds with this surprise increase in the burning of coal.
When it comes to taking environmental action, developing countries frequently accuse the West of hypocrisy and selfishness, arguing that wealthy nations have a bigger role to play given their historical responsibility for releasing greenhouse gas emissions and warming the planet during previous industrial revolutions. This fundamental inequality is at the heart of the contentious topic of climate reparations, or the monetary compensations for the irreparable harm caused by climate change. The scenario is attributed to Russia’s “weaponization” of energy supply, according to the European Commission, which has led the charge for world-class climate rules, and the move from gas to coal may endure for up to three winters. In the near term, this will result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but this will be countered by an acceleration of the use of domestic green energy sources like solar and wind farms, the CEO claims.
By the end of the decade, the EU must still reduce emissions by at least 55%. A representative for the European Commission responded to a question from Euronews on Thursday by saying, “What that will entail is that we need to catch up in the second part of the decade for whatever impact that the next couple of winters have on our emissions, if there are any. “However, I believe that’s a situation that the bulk of our international partners understand, they realize the predicament we’re in right now, and they recognize that Europe will remain a worldwide leader in terms of phasing out coal throughout the world and in terms of rising objectives.”
To completely break free from Russian fossil fuels by the end of the decade, the European Commission has revealed a new initiative called REPower EU that wants to mobilize up to €300 billion in loans and subsidies. The plans also aim to increase the EU’s renewable energy targets for 2030 from 40% to 45% of all energy produced, while reducing the renowned green technology red tape. Amounts have not yet been announced, and REPower EU is still being discussed.