Achievement of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050: The strong Parliament’s energy stance

By Michèle RIVASI, MEP, (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance), Member of the ENVI Committee, Rapporteur on the Governance of the Energy Union

We need an ambitious clean energy package. The accelerating climate change drives us to act rapidly to reach a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 at the latest, in compliance with the Paris Agreement.

The incorporation of the Paris Agreement into EU law requires a strong governance that covers all aspects of the energy transition and maximises citizens and local authorities ‘involvement in the formulation of national energy and climate plans and long-term climate and energy strategies.

On renewable energy and energy efficiency files, EU member states are more inclined towards less ambitious targets, backing only 27% for renewables and 30% for energy efficiency, versus the Parliament’s 35% benchmarks for both.

Rapporteurs of the European Parliament on Energy files have agreed that there will be no final deal if both targets are not well above 30%.

We need ambition. Science is there, alerting us on the pace of global warming.

Costs, the main argument against higher targets, are falling and public opinion continues to back implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Concerning the new governance of the Energy Union, one of the cornerstones for the European Parliament is a carbon budget.

For the first time, we are proposing a carbon budget which will set out exactly what can still be emitted into our atmosphere if we are to comply with the 1.5 and 2 degrees limits set out in Paris and achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

The global carbon budget is 890 Gt of CO2, of which Europe’s fair share could be between 47 and 61 Gt of CO2. In order to stay within budget, more ambitious 2030 targets on climate, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency are needed.

Another crucial aspect in the energy union governance is a European methane strategy.

The battle against climate change focuses largely on carbon dioxide but tends to forget a gas that weighs heavy on the climate.

The EU should rapidly implement policies that effectively reduce methane emissions, as the gas has a high global warming potential and a short atmospheric lifetime, making it a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Over a 20-year horizon, methane traps heat and warms the planet 86 times more than carbon dioxide. Being a precursor for ground level ozone, it is also considered an air pollutant.

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.

Emissions cuts will be achieved mainly by maximising energy efficiency in all sectors and accelerating significantly the increase of renewable energy sources in the final energy consumption.

The whole energy supply system needs to be transformed and rely fully on renewable energy sources.

Fossil fuels will be phased out, while wind, solar, geothermal and biomass from waste and residues will deliver almost all primary energy in 2050.

Although action in all sectors is required, the key actors are power generation, transport, buildings and industry, where electrification and phasing out coal should happen rapidly.

We need the Energy Efficiency First principle as a key policy instrument,

so that energy consumption will decrease despite the rapid growth in renewables. Without ambitious energy efficiency targets, the EU will most likely miss even its current 2030 climate target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% based on 1990 levels, let alone deliver on the commitments made in Paris.

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…

Centralised energy production has prevailed as an energy system for a long time, but the recent emergence of local energy initiatives implies that distributed energy production could compete with, or even replace, the old system in the future.

Distributed renewable energy production has become a considerable option in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and the review of the renewable energy directive should ensure that all individuals have the right to produce, store, resell and use their production of electricity, energy and heat.

Finally, setting up a more favourable regime for small investors and local authorities would allow cities and their inhabitants to invest directly in renewable energy projects, which has been repeatedly proven to increase local acceptance of these projects.

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.

Energy communities and cooperatives are a vital part in reforming the energy sector, offering benefits to the commu- nities and the country as a whole by decreasing energy imports and creating new jobs.