Clean energy is the key to change
The clean energy package could help Europe face four other major challenges, writes Morten Helveg Petersen.
Morten Helveg Petersen | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
With its focus on reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy, the clean energy package is a key component of Europe’s contribution to the fight against climate change. However, the package has the potential to do much more.
Europe needs to find a permanent solution to the migration situation, which has been more or less out of control for the past three years and counting. No country can solve the issue alone, and therefore Europeans have every right to expect Brussels to step up.
We must acknowledge and deal with the root causes of migration. These include droughts and flooding that disrupt harvesting and stability across the world. We know that climate change worsens these phenomena and will continue to do so in future, accelerating the trend and the migration challenge. Therefore, limiting our CO2 emissions is vital to limiting the number of migrants around the world.
Unemployment remains a significant problem for millions of European citizens. In Greece, Italy and Spain, unemployment plunges families into poverty and states into debt. By investing in clean energy transition all over Europe, we can create jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Why not let Europeans produce an even larger share of the wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars that we will need in the low-carbon economy of the future? Compared with our rivals in the US and China, European companies struggle with high expenses that limit their ability to make further investments and help grow the wider economy.
European companies are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to energy. On average, their energy costs are much higher than the ones paid in their competitors’ regions. Considering the sharp decline in wind and solar power costs, which seems likely to continue, a transition towards renewable energy will lower expenses and provide good news for businesses across the continent.
Russia as a threat to European security is back on top of the agenda at European Council meetings in Brussels. Russia’s attacks on European soil and infrastructure, its invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea all provide ample cause for worry. In addition, Russia is increasing its military presence along the Baltic border, forcing the EU and Nato to respond.
Despite the increasing tension, parts of the EU remain highly dependent on imported Russian energy, sending billions of euros to Moscow annually. In order to reduce this dependence, we need to cut our overall energy consumption by investing in energy efficiency. The clean energy package does just that by setting ambitious targets and measures that grow the European economy while reducing energy consumption.
In addition, the package sets targets for renewable energy that limit the share of fossil fuels in our energy mix. This way, the clean energy package reduces the dependence on Russia and improves our security.
The governments of Europe displayed leadership and courage in Paris in December 2015. Signing the climate accord sent strong signals at global level. This year, the European Council once again showed courage, when it signed the energy performance of buildings directive. With 40 per cent of European energy consumption stemming from buildings, this landmark legislation secures higher standards for energy efficiency across the continent.
Looking at the remaining seven files in the package, however, the European Parliament once again needs to push heads of state and governments into action. File after file, including the ACER (European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators) regulation, shows that several governments are prioritising their narrow short-term national interests over the significant European benefits. If we are to deliver on our promises to the citizens of Europe, this cannot continue.
Throughout previous generations, Europe has witnessed truly fascinating progress. Our citizens are healthier, safer and more affluent than ever before. EU member states have met significant challenges in the past.
With the clean energy package, the Commission and the European Parliament call upon governments to respond once again, this time to meet the ambition of the Commission and the European Parliament. In other words, the European Council needs to step up and deliver on its promises to the citizens of Europe.
Not just because doing so is necessary for our climate but also because it provides solutions to other problems across our continent.
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