The meaning of Europe’s energy dependency

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

While the EU is discussing the further steps to Europe’s 'greener economy' as a way to emerge from the financial crisis, its energy dependency on 'dirty fuels' has failed to be addressed, writes Elena Gerebizza of the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank.

Elena Gerebizza is energy and climate finance officer at the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, an advocacy and campaigning group based in Rome and member of the Counter Balance coalition. She is co-author of the policy briefing “Beyond our Borders. A critique of the external dimension of the EU energy policy and its financing mechanisms” released in April 2012.

"Today (20 April) concludes the Danish EU presidency’s informal meeting of energy and environment ministers, where Commissioners for Environment Janez Poto?nik, for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and for Energy Günther Oettinger gathered to discuss how to best orient the bloc’s environment and energy policies to ensure a greener Europe to help solve the financial crisis. The meeting follows the recent publication of the EU’s Energy Roadmap, in which the Commission outlined different scenarios to lead the energy transformation of Europe by 2050.

While the roadmap has elements that could lead to decarbonising the European economy and reducing the amount of fossil fuels within the EU’s energy mix, it would be remiss to suggest that it is the solution to set the EU on a green path towards economic recovery. The EU must address its over-reliance on fossil fuels, and in particular those that are imported from abroad.

Currently the EU imports up to 50% of the energy it uses, and already in 2007, the Commission predicted that “with ‘business as usual’ the EU’s energy import dependence will jump from 50% of total EU energy consumption today to 65% in 2030. Reliance on imports of gas is expected to increase from 57% to 84% by 2030, of oil from 82% to 93%.”

As outlined in the report “Beyond our Borders. A critique of the external dimension of the EU energy policy and its financing mechanisms,” Europe’s energy dependency not only has serious implications for the environment, human rights and development in countries that supply Europe’s energy needs. It also creates rising insecurities in Europe as a consequence of the Union’s reliance on foreign energy sources. This scenario conflicts with EU climate change objectives to reduce emissions and provisions of the Lisbon Treaty with regards to sustainability and EU activities and policies that have an impact on countries outside the EU.

Energy, environment and climate change are integral to the economic and production considerations that Europe will chose in moving forward from the financial crisis, and defining this future means deciding today what type of infrastructure to construct in order to support a truly transformative agenda. This is not about allowing companies to chose the most inexpensive ways to reduce emissions, nor enforcing energy efficiency targets while using the emissions trading scheme to allow the continuation of business as usual.

On the contrary, this means redefining the role of Europe vis-à-vis its neighbours and its priorities in respect to external objectives of the Lisbon Treaty, opening space to discuss the actual energy needs in Europe and how society must be reorganised to overcome these challenges.

Energy infrastructure in Europe demands billions of euros in investments, largely a bill to be footed by European citizens via public financial institutions like the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. So it is therefore legitimate to ask what kind of economy this infrastructure serves and as well to ensure that these priorities remain high on the agenda in forums like the recent ministerial meeting in Denmark."

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