After years of resistance, this September Romania promised to exit coal by 2032 ahead of receiving a €29 billion chunk of NextGenerationEU redevelopment money, some 40% earmarked for green and sustainable projects. But then Bucharest’s coalition fell and a caretaker government has since announced plans for a fleet of new fossil gas and biomass plants to power the country past coal. And during COP26 they signed a partnership with the United States to construct Europe’s largest new nuclear fleet. In this series, based on field research funded by a Fellowship from the International Journalists’ Program, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum, trains a spotlight on Romania’s controversial energy transition.
This summer the European Commission finally unveiled their “Fit for 55” policy package. Aimed at ensuring the European Union reduces emissions and reaches climate neutrality by 2050, a key part of their plan is phasing in a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” or CBAM. Framed as a pollution solution, it’s been met with howls of protest, threats of trade wars and frustration from many corners.
To unpack CBAM’s complications, in this episode of the Global Energy Transition Podcast series, host Michael Buchsbaum, lead blogger of EnergyTransition.org interviews Silvia Weko, research associate with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) at the University of Potsdam and Domien Vangenechten, policy advisor at climate change thinktank Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G) in their Brussels office. Authors of separate pieces on CBAM, they share insights into this controversial tool’s potential impacts and what to watch for as it gets hammered into shape going forward.
Audio from the podcast was mixed and edited by audio expert Christian Kreymborg.
In July the European Commission unveiled its Fit for 55 package aimed at pushing EU member states to reduce emissions by at least net 55% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030. One of the most widely anticipated parts of the package – at least among policy wonks – is the introduction of the world’s first carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). Intended to level the playing field between domestic and foreign producers of cement, steel, aluminum, fertilizers and electricity, CBAM’s real litmus test will be if it actually reduces overall emissions and incentivizes a greening economy both within and without the EU. But given how controversial and relatively weak the CBAM proposal is out of the gate, critics worry its presence will only distract from more effective climate strategies in the Fit for 55 plan. Worse, despite COP 26 in Glasgow, pushing CBAM could spark an international trade war. Lead blogger Michael Buchsbaum reviews the growing debate. Listen to our podcast on CBAM.
With energy prices soaring across Europe, more gas and coal plants are firing up. Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, emissions – along with bills – were skyrocketing. Though fossil energy dependent countries like Poland and other allies of dirty fuels are using the crisis to push back on Brussels, putting more scrutiny on the bloc’s overall decarbonization strategies, leadership is standing firm. As imported fossil gas prices are ever more manipulated on complex commodities markets, European Commission leadership says the crisis is another reminder that the best long-term solution is to accelerate the expansion of renewable generation. And thankfully that’s a key aim of the EU’s newly unveiled “Fit for 55” strategy. Lead blogger L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the situation.
The hydrogen transition – a crucial political, economic and climate initiative for the European Commission – got a massive boost from their newly released Fit for 55 strategy. But despite growing concerns about how dangerous the expanded carbon footprint of H2 produced from fossil gas will be, many policymakers like EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson remain firm on backing both “blue” and “grey” H2. Among many incentives in the new policy package is the shielding of this highly polluting sector from having to pay additional carbon taxes under the European Trading System (ETS). In a recent Politico Energy Visions web event sponsored by Shell, Simson batted away all criticisms, stating that during the H2 transition phase “we will need all low-carbon hydrogen solutions.” Lead blogger L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some of the ways not-so-low H2 benefits under the bloc’s new theoretical pollution prevention plans.
In mid-July, the EU published sweeping cross-sector plans intended to cut emissions by 55% compared to 1990 by the end of the decade. Using rising carbon prices under the Emissions Trading System (ETS) to literally fuel the clean energy transition, the proposed legislation covers a lot of ground: it increases renewable energy targets, sets in place the phase-in of hydrogen, increases energy efficiency and helps encourage housing renovation while ensuring the path of progress is “just.” Beyond helping the bloc reaches its climate objectives, policymakers hope to set an example of global climate leadership in the face of COP26 in Glasgow. In the first of three pieces, lead blogger Michael Buchsbaum breaks down some of the policy’s complexity.
Over the summer, the US Senate passed a much smaller than promised infrastructure package. Despite most climate protection and clean energy aspects being stripped out, one of the big winners in the $1 trillion infrastructure plan is hydrogen (H2). In a provision originally introduced as a separate bill by fossil-rich West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, some $8 billion will go to fund dozens of “clean hydrogen” projects including the creation of four new regional integrated H2 hubs. Hailed by President Joe Biden as a key tool to tackling the growing climate crisis, almost all energy funding in the bill will go to advancing “grey” H2 production from fossil gas as well as “pink” H2 generated by increasingly marginalized nuclear plants – throwing a lifeline to both sectors while ensuring little overall emissions reduction. In the next part of a longer series, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews America’s murky steps into the increasingly over-hyped H2 solution.
The UK government finally launched its long-awaited hydrogen strategy in mid-August 2021. However, their new “twin-track” hydrogen (H2) plan will only fund small volumes of green H2 produced from wind and other renewables with the bulk coming from “blue” H2 generated from fossil gas and dependent on unproven carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies to reduce emissions. Released days after new studies showing that relying on blue H2 could be worse than burning coal, the plan was met with skepticism from the climate science community. In the next installment in a series on hydrogen’s hype, lead blogger and Energy Transition podcaster Michael Buchsbaum breaks down some of the details.
Promoted as a vital tool to slow climate change, hydrogen (H2) is set to decarbonize long-distance transportation, steel and other industries while utilities plan to blend it with fossil gas for electrical generation. Yet 96% of H2 is currently produced from fossil fuels – mostly gas – resulting in massive carbon pollution. Though industry counters with promises of capturing and storing that CO2 – so called “blue” H2, there’s been no peer-reviewed data available to refute their claims it’s clean. Until now. A new life cycle assessment published in the Journal Energy Science & Engineering by influential scientists Robert Howarth and Mark Z Jacobson finds that instead of being an improvement, blue H2 is at best a “distraction” away from genuinely green solutions. Lead blogger, podcaster and advisor to the Energy Transition, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the study and its implications in the first of a series piercing through some of the hydrogen hype.
With carbon emissions set to blow past limits agreed to under the 2015 Paris Agreement and most governments taking little or no action to curtail them, it’s clear new tactics to deal with the climate crisis are urgently needed. A bold new initiative seeks to establish a global Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation treaty. Modeled after the UN’s treaty against the spread of nuclear weapons, last year Climate Breakthrough Award winner, Tzeporah Berman joined with other climate and energy activists to forge a new path towards ending the expanding volumes of climate killing coal, oil and gas still under development. Endorsed by tens of thousands of individuals, hundreds of NGOs as well as a growing list of cities worldwide – like Sydney and Toronto just this summer, lead blogger and Global Energy Transition podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum reviews the concept and what organizers plan for COP26 in Glasgow.