In what may seem a last ditch effort, the European Union has turned to the slow churning wheels of the law to stimulate climate action in 27 Member States (MS) towards a single goal: a carbon neutral Europe by 2050. European Commission (EC) president Ursula von der Leyen puts on a warm smile to say the text of the proposed European Union Climate Law is “actually rather short and it is rather simple.” We leave simplicity to constitutional lawyers, who may find “simple” an amusing word to describe a law with massive implications for national constitutions and EU treaties. Michael Davies-Venn has the story.
As we approach the end of a tumultuous 2020, with the UK finally to leave the European Union on 31 December after its transition period expires, the EU – primarily the Commission – itself has continued to refine the parameters of its sustainable energy strategy, which has been constructed very much in the face of the pressures of the unprecedented global pandemic. David Lowry has the details.
For years, the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the EU’s flagship policy to tackle global warming, was considered a flop. Brussels had distributed too many free emission allowances, which kept the price per ton of emissions low. But since 2018 permit prices have soared upward: and the result is forcing coal out of the energy market. Paul Hockenos reports.
Global trade has been a notorious difficult sector to sign up for decarbonization. The crux of the problem is that its business is crossborder, and thus skirts the emissions reduction plans of individual national states. Much of it thus gets a free ride. Paul Hockenos reports
The so-called Green Deals on the table in Europe and the US present an enticing prospect to rejuvenate the greatly diminished transatlantic relationship — and help hit crucial climate targets before it is too late. The European Green Deal, proposed last year with much fanfare by EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, overlaps significantly with the Green New Deal, an ecological spending program devised by congressional Democrats and endorsed by the party’s presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Paul Hockenos reports
To achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, in early July the European Commission (EC) published their new Hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe. Though the promise of a future green hydrogen-based system is the main selling point, in reality the near-term hydrogen economy will be dependent on a nightmarish mix of fossil gas-derived “grey” hydrogen, later supplemented by “blue” hydrogen, itself dependent upon the proving out of non-functional carbon capture and sequestration technologies (CCS). Behind the scenes, the oil and gas industry and their allies are pushing for a “technology-neutral” hydrogen future, thus ensuring them a handsome stream of profits. Despite the green label, there is every reason to suspect that the coming hydrogen transition will be exponentially dirtier than expected. L. Michael Buchsbaum reminds us to be skeptical in Part II of a series on the promises and pitfalls of green hydrogen.
Heralded as the missing puzzle piece within a fully decarbonized economy, the European Commission has determined clean hydrogen is the 21st Century solution to arresting climate change. Published in July, their new Hydrogen Strategy is also a jobs plan and pathway towards unifying the EU around a holistic energy and economic policy. But despite being framed as a green energy program, there’s a growing realization that the transition will be dirtier than expected. For the short term at least, the plan rests heavily on using fossil gas as “a bridge fuel” once again. L. Michael Buchsbaum reports in the first of a series on the evolving hydrogen revolution.
Fresh EU directives have spurred new legislation across the EU to expand citizen-owned energy projects. But collective renewables still bump up against the powerful forces of traditional utilities, grid operators, and conventional energy interests. Paul Hockenos gives us the details.
When the EU embarked upon its energy transition odyssey, regulators deemed the burning of biomass as climate neutral—which when done on a relatively small-scale and under controlled conditions, it can be. But taking advantage of the EU’s biomass baked-in carbon loophole, power generators soon began converting older, coal-fired plants to burning it instead. There’s only one catch: the climate science doesn’t add up. Biomass’ special carbon accounting loophole is creating a superficial impression of climate progress as forests disappear and emissions rise. Despite sunk capital and billions in government subsidies, the EU has vowed reform, but will regulators really change course? L. Michael Buchsbaum has the details.
Last year, Brazil made international headlines for the devastating forest fires in the Amazon and their impact on the world’s vital oxygen lungs. Many governments – especially from Europe – were quick to condemn the deforestation of the Amazon that had been increasing rapidly since far-right President Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Rebecca Bertram takes a closer look.