Europe must show the way on climate action

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European Parliament flags in Strasbourg

Clouds are gathering on the international climate agenda. But Europe must continue with its efforts despite the fact that President Trump has decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement, writes Kristian Ruby.

Kristian Ruby is the secretary general of EURELECTRIC, the union of Europe’s electricity industry.

No new coal plants in the EU after 2020 

The European electricity sector strongly supports an ambitious climate policy, both globally and in the EU. Through EURELECTRIC, which represents more than 3,500 companies across Europe, the sector already committed in 2009 to a fully CO2-neutral power supply by mid-century.

Last year, the sector encouraged EU decision makers to accelerate CO2 reductions through a comprehensive reform of the EU ETS.

And in April, we sent a very clear signal to the international markets: from 2020, no new coal power plants should be built in Europe.

CO2 reductions through electrification 

The transformation of the electricity sector must go hand in hand with electrification of other economic sectors. Electricity can help reduce CO2 emissions in industry as well as in heating.

And of course in the transport sector, where the shift from petrol to electric power gives a clear climate benefit already today.

Based on the EU average electricity mix, an electric car today only emits 50 grammes per kilometre – a fraction of what petrol cars emit.

Political drive for charging infrastructure 

In the Clean Energy Package, which is currently being discussed in the European Parliament and the Council, there are a number of handles to ensure increased use of electricity in other sectors.

For instance, proposals to ensure the necessary charging infrastructure for electric cars through minimum requirements for buildings relating to pre-cabling and the number of charging points.

These proposals currently face opposition in the Council of Ministers. Of course, they will require investments in the short run. But they are absolutely crucial when it comes to preparing our cities for a future where electric cars are the rule, rather than the exception. So it is important that we don’t drop the infrastructure investments on the basis of short-term economic arguments.

Signal to car manufacturers

Infrastructure is key. But it will not do the trick alone. In addition to incentives to drive sales already today, there is a need for clear signals to automakers to speed up innovation.

EURELECTRIC advocates ambitious CO2 emission targets for cars, specific targets for zero emission vehicles as well as a service check of the emission test cycle, which currently does not account properly for the actual emissions of cars.

The debate on the transformation of the transport sector will be on the political agenda in Brussels in 2017, when the Commission plans two major transport initiatives.

EURELECTRIC will advocate an ambitious approach. At a time when the European project is facing criticism on many fronts, new steps to boost industrial innovation and climate action would be a powerful way to prove the value of our cooperation.