Governance is not about imposing new obligations to member states. It is about mobilising and coordinating all relevant actors, including cities and regions. Europe is changing. Europe is greening. Let’s embrace this change rather than falter, write Michèle Rivasi and Claude Turmes.
Michèle Rivasi (France) and Claude Turmes (Luxembourg) are Members of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA political group. They are co-rapporteurs of the regulation on the governance of the Energy Union.
While 2016 has been reported as the warmest year in history, the Energy Union needs to get their acts together and establish a strong governance system to deliver its commitment under the Paris Agreement.
Science is there, alerting us on the pace of global warming. Our report therefore calls for the adoption of a proper carbon budget for the EU, calculating the maximum quantity of greenhouse gases that the EU can still emit to allow us living in a world where climate change is limited to 1.5°C by the end of the century. We also call on the Commission to address the ‘poor relation’ of climate policy: methane. Given the high global warming potential and short atmospheric lifetime of methane, the Union should rapidly consider relevant policy options and come with a comprehensive Methane Strategy. Carbon budget and methane strategies should be the basis of a reliable long-term 2050 planning.
The only viable option for the Union is to achieve a net-zero emission, highly energy-efficient and fully renewables-based economy by 2050 at the latest. As a consequence, a strong and inclusive governance goes together with an increased ambition for our 2030 targets in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
In a context where the cost of renewable energy technologies is falling, it is high time to unleash the immense potential of the numerous and powerful driving forces around us: cities and regions, citizens, cooperatives, investors, businesses… Governance is not about imposing new obligations to member states. It is about mobilising and coordinating all these actors. Europe is changing. Europe is greening. Let’s embrace this change rather than falter. Let’s keep a chance to keep global warming within reason. Let’s not lock ourselves in a carbon-intensive future. Let’s be stronger together for the benefit of common prosperity, jobs creation, cleaner air, and a more sustainable environment. Because indeed more energy efficiency and more renewables improve air quality for citizens, reduce geopolitical risk by limiting our import dependency and generate green growth together with millions of additional jobs located in Europe.
The EU needs to regain citizens’ confidence. In the wake of the French elections, a new pro-European impetus is expected. It goes with reliable EU legislation, binding targets and pan-European investment in sectors affecting citizens’ daily life such as the renovation of the building stock and electro-mobility.
The good news is that member states are not alone to deliver this increased ambition!
Local authorities (cities and regions) are already largely mobilised to deliver the energy transition, as shown by the 7,000 cities representing 226 million inhabitants gathered in the Covenant of Mayors with action plan to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% in 2030. Citizens-driven initiatives such as energy cooperatives flourish throughout Europe. Institutional investors are ready to invest massively in the energy transition: no later than yesterday, pension funds representing 18 trillion euros of investment (equivalent to more than the EU’s GDP, six times Germany’s) expressed their support to high energy efficiency ambition. The business sector does not want to be left out: companies gathered into the RE100 movement to move towards a 100% renewables-based mix. The multi-layer governance we propose is an asset to help member states reaching their targets and objectives. It requires full transparency as a pre-condition to build a large societal consensus around climate change and the energy transition.
We also propose that member states should gather beyond borders into macro-regional partnerships. These partnerships have the potential to deliver cost-optimised deployment of smart grids, renewables and energy efficiency. Northern Seas, the Baltic Sea, South-East Europe, Central-Western Europe, the Mediterranean basin are geographic areas where neighbouring member states have so much to win if they act together. Such macro-regional partnerships will identify renewable energy projects of Energy Union interest (such as off-shore wind farms, utility-scale photovoltaic plants, cross-border projects promoted by cities), and the Commission should establish a dedicated financial platform to support them.
We simply cannot afford not to act together. Our report on the governance of the Energy Union outlines these no-regret options. On the eve of a very important informal energy Council in Malta where some conservative member states attempt to reduce energy efficiency ambition, we urge European leaders not to halt and not to sacrifice our long-term vision in the name of short-term political horse-trading.