Energy and climate were on the agenda last week when EU heads of state gathered in Brussels. Specifically up for discussion was the proposal from the European commission on targets for the EU for 2030.
This proposal has a long way to go before it becomes legislation and environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Europe are frustrated by the direction the plans are taking. We were joined outside the EU council building by hundreds of people to express our frustration at the inadequacy of EU climate policy and to shout about the solutions that we know make sense.
Why are we so frustrated? To start with the proposal for a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2030 is off the radar of what we know is needed scientifically. The often-repeated commitment of limiting average global temperature increase to less than 2°C is being broken. At the same time we are experiencing record temperatures and rainfall as climate change impacts kick in across Europe.
There is currently no proposal for binding national targets for renewable energy for 2030. This is an unacceptable row-back from policies for 2020. It gives a very worrying signal to investors in renewable energy be they big developers or small projects.
We are working with communities and citizens who are involved in owning and running renewable energy projects. These are the people who are out there making the energy transition we desperately need at grassroots level. Community projects are usually significantly financed by people putting up personal savings, something that they will be less likely to do if there are signals from Brussels that clean energy will receive less support.
By not putting in place concrete plans to encourage the growth of clean energy, Europe will be opening the door to dirty energies such as shale gas and nuclear. Shale gas is not the 'low carbon' technology its advocates would have us believe.
It won’t contribute to a reduction in emissions and on top of that fracking destroys water, health and communities wherever it is tried. Nuclear energy has its own dangerous realities and yet is another option that will be turned to if we don’t set targets for renewable energy.
Our demonstration last week brought together people opposed to these dirty energies, as well as many people who believe in a clean, renewables-based, energy efficient system. In mass, we turned our backs on what’s on offer at the moment in the 2030 package and walked away towards the different energy system we need.
But when so many people are convinced of the need for urgent climate action and the end of our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, where has this weak proposal come from? A clue can be found in the language used in the European commission's communication on 2030. When you compare this to the positions of industry lobby group BusinessEurope you see a wish list come true.
The polluters, in the form of heavy industry and fossil fuel companies, asked for a single weak target for emissions cuts and got one, they asked for a phase out of subsidies for renewables and got one, and the list goes on. The language of the industry lobby on competitiveness has become front and centre in the climate debate. It is clear that decision makers are listening too closely to the lobby power of dirty industry.
This makes for a policy package that doesn't work for the climate and doesn't work for people. Many groups of citizens don't want to stand for this anymore. This is why we were outside the EU council meeting and why we're going to keep coming back.
Together with communities affected by dirty extractive projects, social movements for climate justice, and renewable cooperatives, we will keep demonstrating and making ourselves heard.
The power of big business means that Europe's commitments on climate change are not happening, so we'll be doing it ourselves, fighting destructive projects and creating community-owned solutions until we build the safe, democratic energy future that we need.