Sanjeev Kumar / Jan 2020
Good leadership is paramount in a crisis. It is the difference between survival and doom.
Commission President von der Leyen proclaimed “If there is one area where the world needs our leadership, it is on protecting our climate” the day the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. These institutions now shape the European Green Deal to deliver on these commitments in the next 60 months as this is the window between survival, peace and mutual prosperity or the cataclysmic doom of unmanageable climate, ecological, economic and social crises.
Two essential objectives of the European Green Deal must be to deliver the displacement of fossil fuel usage with renewable heating, cooling and electricity systems as well as strengthening institutional empowerment of regional and local governments to manage the transition. The European Green Deal must, therefore, include:
1.The right targets
In an emergency timing is crucial. Whilst the carbon neutral 2050 target is welcome it is too far away to have a meaningful impact on urgently needed innovation and investment decisions that must be taken today to account for a largely inert energy systems and the building stock.
Revising the 2030 greenhouse gas, renewable energy and energy savings targets at the same time must be the priority. It must be proposed 2050 climate law or issued alongside it. This is the only justification to delay to the timing of the 2030 greenhouse target revision in the context of the Paris Agreement commitment upgrade.
Increasing renewable heat, electricity and energy savings targets makes delivery of higher greenhouse gas targets much more politically feasible, especially at the levels outlined by the UN EP Emission Gap Report 2019.
The lesson from the last decade of EU climate and energy policy experimentation is that these binding targets have worked well in providing real-world investments, innovation, job creation as well as reductions in energy and healthcare costs. Given the scale of renewable energy capacity required to decarbonise electricity, heating and transport it is vital to hardwire 2030 binding into legislation to give investors, citizens, industries and supply chains time to align to 2050
2.Heat Market Design
Heat use accounts for nearly half of total energy consumption in the EU. More than 70% of this heat demand is met by fossil gas. Heating rooms and hot water are critical issues for all households and individuals whilst different heat temperatures are key for manufacturing industry.
Most renewable heating and cooling solutions are competitive, provide significant advantages for industrial growth as their supply chains and workforces are based in the EU and they are cheaper than fossil gas. The average cost of heat in France in 2019 so far from fossil gas is 7.7c/kWh, from electric boilers it is 15c/kWh whilst geothermal heat costs 6.5c/kWh, according to the Ministry for Ecological Transition.
However, renewable heat is locked out of markets due to fossil fuel subsidies and a lack of carbon pricing which lock consumers into heat poverty, exposure to volatile energy bills and the unsavoury geopolitical relationships
3. Empowering regions to deliver local investments
The transformation of the electricity, heat and transport systems takes place in regions, communities and households. Their voice needs to be central to the planning and investment process. Local and regional governments have long been at the forefront of local planning and investment. They understand what it means to be politically accountable for local improvements and are best placed to nurture and maintain the political support required for the changes ahead. Much of the detailed investment planning in the European Green Deal will come from Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans which almost all EU cities and regional governments have developed. They need to be integrated into EU and national energy planning decisions and have a dedicated stream of accessible finance.