It is generally recognized that the best available science is important for effective climate actions and decision-making in national energy policy. The urgency is vital in enhancing ambition and action concerning mitigation, adaptation and finances to implement the goals of Paris-2015 Agreement and secure European energy independence during present critical decade.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level (the EU’s goal is 55 percent, hence “fit for 55 plan”) and to net zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases. Besides, environmental law is also involved in climate mitigation process.
Present EU “green policy” reflects a hidden hypocrisy, where lobbyism of big companies is not efficient for small countries: resolving real situation in such issues as energy-efficiency and energy–independence in small European countries (like the Baltic States, contrary to the EU big countries’ problems), require new governance structures with specific and responsive approaches to available national resources and, probably, phasing-out policies in the “joint rush” for zero-emission and massive alternative energy sources.
There are, in principle, numerous solutions to “green energy” policy: solar and wind, nuclear and thermo, etc. However, most EU states lack concrete and specifically-tailored executive measures, as well as feasible solutions in using those sources of energy that refer to future energy security. Presently chosen EU’s approach oriented towards additional sanctions against Russian supplies instead of pro-active evaluations of all possible consequences is highly inefficient, at least in the short-run.
Already in October 2021 the Commission outlined a toolbox of short and longer term measures in the State of the Energy Union- 2021 called “Contributing to the European Green Deal and the Union’s recovery”.
The “toolbox” included a rapid coordinated approach to protect those most at risk without fragmenting the European single energy market or jeopardising investments in the energy sector and the green transition. In the medium term, it suggested policy response focused on making the EU more efficient in the use of energy, less dependent on fossil fuels and more resilient to energy price spikes, while providing affordable and clean energy to end-users.
The climate issues
Climate change has become a common concern for all states ij the world: while taking actions in addressing climate-change measures national governance shall respect, promote and consider their respective obligations not only concerning national growth, but also in view of such human rights as the right to health, environmental quality and public wellbeing. It is also important to ensure the integrity of all national ecosystems, including land, water resources, forests, seas and oceans; besides, protection of biodiversity has become an issues which has been often regarded as the “the concept of climate justice”.
The global COP26 conference adopted in mid-November 2021, its Glasgow Climate Pact – the first climate agreement explicitly committed to phase-out (and scale-up support for) of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. In addition, there were bold collective commitments across a number of sectors, in such spheres as reducing methane emissions, halting and reducing forest loss by 2030, moving away from internal combustion engine vehicles completely, and aligning the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, to name a few.
The next decade will demonstrate the commitments’ implementation reality while offering massive opportunities for sustainability practitioners around the world to get involved in local climate actions; e.g. efforts been appreciated towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development through deployment and transfer of new technologies.
Main reference to: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cma2021_L16_adv.pdf?utm_source=SDSN&utm_campaign=3a36dd51c6
Among other main modern global “climate pact’s” directions is the recognition of importance of the best available science achievements in reaching effective climate actions and optimal policymaking in the states. Thus, the information resources presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC for the latest global and regional reports on the state of the climate by the World Meteorological Organization were actively used available scientific and technological recommendations in preparing recent 2021-analysis.
More in: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2021. – Physical Science Basis and Contribution to the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. By V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, A. Pirani, et al. (Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/ .
The “pact”, however, expressed “alarm and utmost concern” that human activities have caused around 1.1 °C of warming and that national “carbon budgets” were small and inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s goals of reducing global temperature. Besides, the pact acknowledged the need to reflect on equity and the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities to climate problems and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances.
Already in 2014, the European Commission adopted guidelines for the member states’ budget allocations in environmental and energy issues (2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy). The guidelines allow the states to support the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, subject to certain conditions; these rules aim to help the states meet the EU’s ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. Then, in 2018, the EU adopted a renewable energy directive which established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030. Besides, in 2019, the Commission communication on “green deal” which provided additional reinforcements for the member states climate policies, while setting an objective of no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050.
Recently adopted European Climate Law enshrines the 2050 climate neutrality objective and introduces the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, which has set the ground for the “fit-for-55” legislative proposals adopted by the Commission in July 2021. Among these proposals are amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive, which set an increased target to produce 40% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030.
General reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_6422
Specific European sectoral “climate law” is aimed at reaching the EU’s climate and environmental ambition. The Commission’s climate goals are expressed in recent Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, as well as in some other “strategies”, such as the new Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, the Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable food and proposals for pollution-free Europe. Commission’s work on these goals includes amendments to Europe’s 2030 emissions targets, setting a realistic path to the 2050 goal.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_19_6691.
EU environmental legislation includes also case law (CJEU’s latest updates) and best practice in this field; by this account, current challenges and opportunities in the EU environmental law for the member states are best seen. For example, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) released recently judgment (13.01.2022) in the joined “license to pollute” cases regarding NOx emissions limits in some European capitals, i.e. Paris, Brussels and Madrid.
As a rule, the following key topics are in the environmental lawyers’ practice: – EU Green Deal implementation, – access to the EU’s “justice reform”, – recent developments on the “Fit-for-55 Package”, – renewable energy and communities’ efforts in boosting energy transition, – risks and challenges in climate litigation in the EU-27, – impact of climate litigation on business, – EU policies to combat the climate crisis with focus on trade, agriculture and sustainable investment.
References to the following Commission’s web-links: – Updates on EU Green Deal and Access to Justice; – Latest trends in “Fit-for-55” Package and energy transition; – Special focus on climate change litigation; – Greening EU policies: Trade – Agriculture – Investment.
Private sector’s example
Best example is provided by the activity of the Italian “national hydrocarbons board”, ENI (initially the acronym of “Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi”) founded in 1953. Through the years after its foundation however, it operated in many fields including nuclear power, energy and mining, chemicals and plastics, etc. Considered one of the seven “super major” oil companies in the world it has operations in 69 countries with a market capitalization of US$54.08 billion, as of April 2022. The Italian government owns about 30.3 percent of golden share in the company, 4.37 percent is held by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and about 26 percent through a deposit company the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
ENI’s vice-president reminded in summer 2019, that the EU states import 75% of gas and 80% oil; hence, electrification is expected to be a driving force in the energy mix with extensive use of renewables. However, only 38% of the available energy sources are converted into electricity and in 2040 only 31% of the global final uses of energy will be electrified; the consumption’s division is quite remarkable: 58% used residentially, 28% in industry and 10% in transportation. Oil and gas will still be more than 50% of the primary energy demand, though coal is expected to be generally excluded for the energy mix in the EU states. Therefore, according to ENI, the transition will take quite a long time, i.e. “at least next 15 years”; European fossil fuel suppliers must be examined carefully if the EU wants to preserve and support its industrial basis.
The energy transition and energy security are two debates that are intrinsically intertwined: though, the less ideological are these issue, the more effective would be national energy policies and decision-making. However, there is no simple and successful solution for all states: e.g. for the energy transition, proclaimed by the EU, there is an urgent need to invest heavily in new technologies, e.g. in hydrogen, biofuels, batteries, etc.
References to: Pistelli L. ENI’s executive vice president in “The energy transition in the European political context. – International Association of Oil & Gas Producers in: https://www.iogp.org/blog/benefits-of-oil-and-gas/opinions/the-energy-transition-in-the-european-political-context/
General energy issues
In summer 2021, the Eurobarometer’s survey showed that European citizens believed that climate change was the single most serious problem facing the world. More than nine out of ten people surveyed consider climate change to be a serious problem (93%), with almost eight out of ten (78%) considering it to be very serious.
State of the Energy Union (prepared in October 2021) reflects following key findings of the EU’s complex energy issues visualized in 2020:
= EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including international aviation) were down 31 % compared to 1990 due to the impact of the pandemic on energy consumption but also due to continued decarbonisation trends;
= Renewables are on the road to overtake fossil fuels as the EU’s main power source (with 38 % of EU electricity, fossil fuels with 37 % and nuclear 25 %). The share of renewable energy sources in the overall EU energy mix is going to reach at least 22 percent, although some EU states are at risk of failing to meet their national binding target;
= The EU primary energy consumption declined by 1.9 % and final energy consumption by 0.6 % in 2019 compared to 2018;
= EU net energy import dependency reached 60.6 % in 2019 compared to 58.2 % in 2018 and 56 % in 2000; the highest level in the past 30 years;
= While fossil fuel subsidies fell slightly in 2020, down to € 52 billion from € 56 billion in 2019, this was due to falling consumption amid post-pandemic related restrictions; without the states action, fossil fuel subsidies are likely to rebound as economic activity picks up;
= Nine EU states have phased out coal, 13 states have made national commitments to do so by a certain date, four states are considering possible dates and only one has not yet started national discussions on a phase-out;
= More than 98.6% of EU electricity consumption is coupled; traded volumes on natural gas hubs rose to an all-time high in 2019, and the trend continued in 2021;
= Public clean energy R&I spending in states continues to be lower than in 2010, but national and EU recovery funding that targets clean energy R&I can partially compensate this;
= Energy poverty affects up to 31 million people in the EU as of 2019, with persisting differences across the EU states and income levels; it underlines the importance of shielding the vulnerable sectors and people from the current price spike and ensure a just transition towards climate neutrality;
= Most, albeit not all, trends are therefore positive but nevertheless still fall short of what is needed to drive the required transformation to achieve the objectives of the Energy Union. Acceleration is required not just to achieve a socially fair transition to climate neutrality by 2050 but also as an insurance against the sort of price shocks the EU is presently facing;
= The adoption of the European Climate Law and of the “Delivering the European Green Deal” package proposed by the Commission in mid-2021 marked two major steps towards putting in place a credible framework to ensure the energy’s strategy;
= Member states’ Recovery and Resilience Plans are expected to provide a boost to climate-related investments by at least € 177 billion to foster necessary reforms to support the climate and energy transition.
References to data from the EU’s “energy union” report of October 2021.
Other initiatives and solutions…
Increasing renewables is another way for ensuring the European energy security; however, it is only possible by bringing cross-border cooperation to a new level. For example, the European North Sea region is a good prerequisite for possible changes: in mid-May 2022 some EU states joined forces to actively use the energy of offshore wind. These states –including Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Germany decided to quadruple their offshore wind capacity by 2030, which would mean additional 150 gig-watt electricity up to 2050: i.e. wind farms in the North Sea will cover the annual energy consumption of more than 50 million homes, or about one quarter of all European households. This is the EU’s trend in renewable energy based on ambitious plan to reach a continent with net-zero CO2 emissions, which is good for both global climate and European security of energy supply.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_22_3282
As to the diversification of European gas supply, main attention in the Union’s REPowerEU program is on the ongoing agreements with reliable and trustworthy gas-suppliers all over the world. E.g. in March 2022, the Commission agreed with the US to significantly step up LNG deliveries to the EU; the amount of supply would replace about one third of the present Russian gas import. Besides, more LNG and pipeline gas will also come to the EU from the Middle East and North Africa. New LNG terminals in such EU states as Greece, Cyprus and Poland will soon become operational, as well as new interconnectors and pipeline infrastructure among the states which then over time would form the core of the European “hydrogen corridors” as a new frontier of Europe’s energy network.
Global and European economists, according to the Commission’s analysis, in predicting future energy perspectives, were assuming that national economies would no longer rely on oil and coal, but on such “sources” as lithium for batteries, silicon metal for ICT-chips and rare earth permanent magnets for electric vehicles and wind turbines.
The EU’s green and digital transitions will massively increase the need for these materials in the states: thus, a vital task is appearing for national governance to assure a stable access to these materials. The EU is heavily dependent on foreign supplies, though there are just a few states world-wide with these materials’ availability: thus, the EU strategy in this regard is not to rely on a single produces but diversify supplies, ensure the resilience of supply chains and avoid another kind of dependence.
For the Commission the solution is to secure strong international partnerships in reaching needed strategic raw materials’ supply with a number of countries around the world: only through reliable international partnership a “balanced interdependence” can be reached in order to create a new system of supply chains that the EU states can rely upon.