by Samuel Furfari © 2020
Originally published in the European Scientist, republished as a Google Translated English version with permission of the author.
The European Parliament (EP) is accelerating its strategy towards a completely carbon-free European Union. Not content with the ambitious proposal of the European Commission (EC), the parliamentary majority claims that more needs to be done. What they are proposing is unfortunately foolish. This is not an opinion, but a conclusion offered by the historical analysis of official data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU.
INFLATION OF TARGETS
At the Earth Summit in June 1992, the United Nations adopted the Framework Convention on Climate Change. To get to this conference, where he was not allowed to speak, Jacques Delors had a proposal adopted for a directive aimed at the stability of CO 2 emissions in the EU. It was accompanied by a proposal for an energy-carbon tax. France did not want it, arguing that “to fight against alcoholism we should not tax lemonades”, because it was opposed to a tax on nuclear energy, which does not produce CO 2 . Times have since changed.
In 2009, at the initiative of Mrs. Merkel, the EU adopted an energy-climate strategy with the objective of reducing CO 2 emissions by 20% compared to 1990. The year 1990 was, and remains, the point of benchmark in the whole climate issue, because it is quite simply the “rounded” year just before 1992. Nicolas Sarkozy, who presided over the EU that semester, had this directive adopted at full speed, because he saw it also a superb promotion of nuclear energy, of which France was a leader. Again, times have since changed.
To prepare for the COP21 negotiations, the European Council reached, at its meeting on 23 and 24 October 2014, an agreement on the framework for action for the EU in the area of climate and energy by 2030. It adopted the principle of a binding target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. On 30 November 2016, the Commission, by publishing its “energy-climate” legislative package, this objective of reducing “by at least” 40% by 2030 was made concrete in legislative proposals. But there was no longer any question of nuclear power.
During her campaign for the presidency of the Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen promised to raise this target from 40 to 50%. It was a necessary step so that the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP) could also receive the support of the European left against the socialist Timmermans. Visiting Paris, coming out of her meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, on the steps of the Élysée Palace, the candidate announced that her goal was now 55% for 2030 and 100% for 2050. We can imagine that the reference shareholder of the French nuclear company Areva had used its position of strength in the EP thanks to its elected representatives from the République en Marche. This objective, even more ambitious than the previous ones, was indeed apparently welcome to relaunch the sale of French nuclear reactors,that does not emit C02 and are explicitly mentioned by the IPCC as a source of carbon-free energy essential to achieve its climate objectives.
This 55% target for 2030 was endorsed by the EC in its Green Pact in December 2019 and accepted a few days later by the European Council, with the notable exception of Poland. The decision is therefore not yet finalized, Poland having received the promise that billions of euros in aid from European taxpayers would be granted to it in compensation for its acceptance. The great bargaining has yet to take place, probably by the end of this year, bargaining, because the dossier on the rule of law in Poland, managed by Mr Timmermans under the previous Commission, is involved. This country will negotiate hard on its share in the reduction of CO 2 emissions .
It will be observed that the objective for 2050 is not “zero carbon”, but “carbon neutrality”. The difference is that no one can imagine achieving zero fossil fuels in 2050, but the inevitable emissions will have to be captured and buried (CCS technology). In addition, the Vice-President of the EC has let it be known that he thinks like Germany on nuclear energy. It is therefore difficult to see how we will be able to reduce CO 2 emissions while abandoning nuclear power. The die-hards believe that the emissions trading mechanism will allow it. It is window dressing, because it is indeed additional emissions.
On October 7, the EP raised the already ambitious target of 55% of the EC proposal to 60%. There was a majority of 392 votes, but also a very strong abstention (142), a sign that some, while understanding the exaggeration, were afraid of being castigated, or even ostracized like all those who do not follow without flinching the question. climate. In a lyricism of which only politicians have the secret, The moment has been called a “historic moment”.
We did not have the opportunity to verify which Member States the MEPs who opposed (161) or abstained came from, but it is likely that some must have understood the huge trap of this vote. In fact, it provides, above all, that each of the Member States must reduce its emissions.
Flashback to understand. The targets of the 20-20-20 strategy of 2009 were binding on each Member State, but those decided in 2016 were only binding on the EU as a whole and not on individual Member States. Environmentalists have tried to impose coercion on each member state, but the Council has held firm. The Bulgarian minister who was presiding over the EU at the time had this word which showed his determination: “ you are not going to bring in through the window what we have brought out through the door “. The bill for the 20-20-20 objectives had indeed opened the eyes to many countries, which have finally understood that these energy policies are overpriced for mediocre results. Their position can be summed up by the popular expression “courage, flee! “.
Because this is the most important point of the decision taken by the EP on October 7. Much more serious than the figure of 60%, it is the obligation for each Member State to achieve this objective. We can bet that the battle will be tough in the Council, because this disproportionate ambition of parliamentarians is unacceptable for many Member States, as we will see with a few simple arithmetical calculations.
THE HARSH REALITY OF NUMBERS
In 1990, all the Member States of the current EU (EU-27) emitted 3,925.28 Mt of CO 2, of which 3,549.77 Mt came from the energy sector. If we refer to all greenhouse gases, these figures are respectively 4911.63 and 3734.38 Mt. The difference corresponds to industrial greenhouse gases which are not linked to the production of CO 2 . As these gases are more easily controlled, when politicians claim to limit emissions, it is mainly CO 2 emissions that they are referring. In particular, when environmentalists attack SUVs or airplane vacations, it is not, for example, SF 6 or N 2 0 that they are thinking, but of CO 2 emissions.. These were in 2018 (latest year of official Eurostat data) of 3,184.02 Mt, a decrease of 26.47 Mt per year, which corresponds to a reduction of 19% (still compared to 1990). Between 2018 and 2020, this figure will change and we can therefore recognize that the objective of the 20-20-20 strategy will be exceeded … but “thanks to” the Covid crisis.
Globally exceeded! Because if Germany was able to reduce its emissions by 26%, Ireland increased them by 24%, Spain by 22%, Cyprus by 56%, the Netherlands by 3%, green Austria by 10%. and Portugal by 19%. In fact, a significant part of the reduction in EU CO 2 emissions since 1990 is due to the abandonment of the socialist planned economy in the former communist countries. In them, until the end of communism, the price of energy was not real, so there was no need to think about energy efficiency. Thus, once free and having adopted the market economy, Romania and Bulgaria were able to reduce their CO 2 emissions.65% and 43% respectively, demonstrating, if need be, the total ineffectiveness of planned socialist systems, including in energy and environmental matters. Globally, all the Member States that belonged to the Soviet sphere of influence were able to reduce their emissions by 69%, while those practicing market economy by only 17%, because energy efficiency which was part of their practice since the oil crises had already made it possible to achieve good efficiency.
But at the same time, on the basis of 2018 data, it must be recognized that the efforts over 28 years have not led to the reduction announced in Western countries. The containment and the terrible recession underway will bring down CO 2 emissions and thus encourage enthusiasts of binding measures to claim that it is possible to achieve “ambitious, but realistic” objectives. This is a shortcut that the millions of citizens who are or will soon find themselves unemployed will appreciate …
On average, since 1990, the EU 27 has reduced its emissions by 1.0% per year (1.7% for ex-socialist countries and 0.9% for others). Now, to reach -55% or -60% in 2030, CO 2 emissions should be 1766.38 or 1570.11 Mt, i.e. the annual effort by 2030 ( 12 years from 2018 to 2030) compared to that achieved so far should be 446% or 508%. Difficult to imagine except to consider a complete upheaval (and binding) of current lifestyles and the obligation to face all the excesses to which this upheaval will lead on the part of those who categorically refuse it.
But as I wrote above, more dangerous than this 60% target is the will of the parliament to try again to “enter through the window” the obligation for each Member State to reduce its own emissions by 60%. . This means that France will have to multiply by more than 7 for 12 years what it has painfully achieved over 28 years (a reduction of 15%). Belgium should also be 7 times more ambitious. As for the Netherlands, they should be 50 times more ambitious, but in the opposite direction. Perhaps that explains the position of two parties which form the Batavian government to want to relaunch nuclear power?
The following table gives, for each country, the ratio between the annual reduction which has been made so far and that which will have to be achieved to achieve the extravagant objectives of the European Parliament. It can be seen that the objectives of the European Commission are just as unattainable (in the table a negative figure indicates that this country has increased its emissions compared to 1990). The graph also illustrates that Parliament’s ambition to want to impose 60% does not in fact change the scale of the challenge compared to that of the European Commission. The bargaining that will take place in the Council to find a compromise between 55% or 60% is just window dressing for the naïve.
Is it serious to propose such objectives given the fact that they are unachievable, except to destroy the European economies or to change the economic system, and this, without the approval of the citizens? And this time, there are no more “low-hanging fruits” to take, everything that was easy to achieve has been done; we must now move on to the difficult things. Without forgetting the will of the anti-nuclear activists. Let us also observe that it is not wind or solar energies that can respond to this challenge that the institutions are proposing. Between 2008 and 2018, Germany increased its production of this popular form of energy by 240%, but only reduced its emissions by 12% (this comparison should not be made with 1990 when these energies were practically non-existent.
In their next meetings, by the end of 2020, the heads of state and government are expected to debate the proposals of the Commission and that of the EP. The green lobbies will be unleashed in the media, while the industrialists, paralyzed as always on these issues, will begin their declarations with a “we are in favor of the drastic reduction of CO 2 emissions ” or similar. Until when will European industry continue to be silent to appear green? Until when will the population remain in ignorance of the economic disaster that these parliamentarians cut off from industrial reality are preparing for them? Why is the press silent in the face of such incredible data?
This demagoguery of the European Parliament, all parties combined, does not make it grow. Members of the European Parliament do not realize that their demagoguery is detrimental to them. Perhaps, moreover, the European Parliament could set an example, by deciding to abandon its massive transhumance towards Strasbourg four days a month, which also causes emissions?
Almost 30 years after the adoption of the United Nations Convention, global CO 2 emissions have increased by 58%. Non-EU countries are heading at full speed towards a continuous increase in CO 2 emissions , because they are the consequence of socio-economic success, which is paramount for them. Despite its extreme positions, the EU is not and will not be the model for other countries in the world.
Recall that with its meager 9% of global emissions, going to less than 5% will come at the cost of either a pan-European economic disaster and / or a change of politico-economic regime, about which citizens Europeans were not consulted, and to top it off, with extremely low global impact.
The simplistic and grotesque parable of the hummingbird, very fashionable in some circles, and according to which everyone must do their part, however small, is here nonsense: unless the rest of the world follows Europe, which will never happen, this one condemns itself for almost no impact. Certainly, the EU will be carbon-free and will be able to look at the rest of the world from the height of its morale and its self-satisfaction, but it will also be considerably impoverished and will suffer in any case the effects of climate change to which the rest of the world will have contributed.
“Should we do nothing then?” “, I am often asked? There are solutions. There have always been solutions; they have always been technological. European political parties and governments should first of all free themselves from their fear of professional green activists, for whom climate change is only the perfect pretext to advance their old goal of “another world”. Then, and consequently, to invest the money of European citizens in this well-controlled low-carbon energy production method, for which Europe has the skills in the legal, political and human sense, and in full technological development, which is the conventional nuclear. Why invest so much in inefficient or science fiction technologies (nuclear fusion, hydrogen as I show in my recent book ” The hydrogen illusion”), while we already have new generation reactors (SMR, molten salts), some of which consume their own“ waste ”?
Table 1 Report of the annual changes to be achieved by 2030 compared to those made since 1990.
About the Author
Doctor of applied sciences and engineer, Samuele Furfari has been teaching energy geopolitics at the Free University of Brussels since 2003. He was a European civil servant for 36 years at the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission. He is president of the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists.
Samuel’s books are on Amazon