Low carbon future: Alternative technologies have crucial role to play
A director of the European Commission’s DG climate action, Artur Runger-Metzger says that while “no silver bullet” exists in meeting the EU’s CO2 emission reduction targets, alternative technologies will have a “crucial” role to play.
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That was one of the key messages to emerge from a roundtable organised by The Parliament Magazine and FuelsEurope.
The debate heard that many of the industries that are crucial for Europe are also responsible for a great portion of the emissions produced. The car industry, for example, is vital for Europe while at the same time the transport sector - especially road transport - is amongst the biggest emitters.
Runger-Metzger, a keynote speaker at the event in Parliament on Tuesday, said that cutting emissions in the transport industry will be vital in achieving the EU’s 2050 targets but cautioned that there is “no silver bullet.”
Instead of concentrating on “any one single technology”, he advised considering a range of renewable alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels.
These might include everything from biofuels and bio gas to green hydrogen, he said.
The Commission is looking at cost-efficient ways to make Europe’s economy more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming and its low-carbon economy roadmap suggests that by 2050, the EU should cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 levels.
The milestones to achieve this are 40 per cent emissions cuts by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2040. Emissions from transport could be reduced to more than 60 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, according to the Commission.
Runger-Metzger, director of climate strategy, governance and emissions from non-trading sectors in the Commission’s climate action directorate, said that the low-carbon transition is feasible and affordable and called for a “long-term vision” for the transition of the refining industry and liquid fuels.
John Cooper, Secretary General of FuelsEurope, which represents 40 fuel refining companies supplying an estimated 50 million customers, referred to his organisation’s ‘Vision 2050’ policy document which partly focuses on what it calls the “refinery of the future.”
This foresees a refinery as an “energy hub, within an industrial cluster” which increasingly uses renewable energies such as hydrogen, waste carbon, biomass and synthetic crude oil.
Cooper said this possibility would be attractive to Europe because it complements EU energy policy, creates skilled jobs and also provides opportunities for the EU to export these types of technologies to other parts of the world.
He predicted that Europe and the rest of the world will need liquid fuels and products for “many decades” but that the transition to a low-carbon economy will not necessarily be driven in the same way for all sectors.
Henna Virkkunen, a Finnish MEP, pointed out that some 94 per cent of transport still relies on oil products, saying, “It is clear we need significant reductions of CO2 emissions but not in mobility.
Luckily, we have many ways to meet the targets and make our industries more sustainable and low carbon ones.
“Several low emission options are available already: advanced biofuels, hydrogen and LNG. All of these are needed to cut emissions and the use of varied renewable and low emissions energy sources should be encouraged.”
Her country, Finland, was a good example of what can be achieved, she noted, saying that it now uses 20 per cent of renewables in its transport sector.
Finland and Sweden, she said, are the only two countries in Europe which have managed to cut emissions in the transport sector compared with 1990 levels.
“And,” she added, “the Finnish government has also set a new target of 30 per cent of renewables in transport by 2023.”
She told the meeting that the use of alternative fuels, especially in transport, was “vital” in order to be able to cut the dependence on oil and harmful environmental effects.
“All means are needed to cut emissions.”
The MEP also said there was a need to “ensure there is a proper and functioning network of distribution stations of different fuels and the recharging points accessible to the public.”
Seamus Boland, a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, said that, currently, such infrastructure in most member states was poor.
He said that two member states, Malta and Hungary, had done nothing to provide facilities such as charging stations for electric vehicles.
Responding, Runger-Metzger admitted that this was a concern, adding that “huge investment” would be needed in the coming years to ensure, for example, that more cars on the road are powered by renewable energy.
However, he also pointed out that the Commission had, earlier this year, set aside some €800m to help member states build such infrastructure.
Further comment came from Marta Yugo, science executive economics and modelling, at Concawe, which carries out research on environmental issues relevant to the oil industry, who agreed that a “combination” of different types of fuels were necessary in cutting emissions in the transport sector.
Event host Paul Rübig, an Austrian EPP group deputy, called for more investment in research and science, adding, “We all agree that we have to develop clean technologies, not least so that the children of today will be able to live healthier lives in the future.”
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