Re-energising Europe: the choices are ours

The choices we make about the resilience and sustainability of our energy system are of such central concern to all our lives that they must be informed by more voices than those of the great and the good alone.

That is why WWF launched a report today entitled “Cutting energy related emissions the right way”, assessing the five decarbonisation scenarios presented in the European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050. The WWF report shows that the Energy Roadmap only considers a relatively narrow range of decarbonisation options, all with roughly similar levels of renewable energy by 2030, and a significant residual fossil fuel liability through to 2050.

It matters to all of us that the EU’s energy system makes maximum use of energy efficiency to reduce our bills.  We all have a stake in whether enough is being done to secure the new jobs and climate benefits that more renewable energy can deliver.  We are all impacted by the reliance on fossil fuels that mean our nations keep spending hundreds of billions of Euros to import the coal, oil, and gas that pollutes our air.

But how can we access the debate?  How can we digest those dense policy proposals of facts and figures, assumptions and arguments, when in reality we actually spend our days paying our bills, looking for and doing our jobs, and negotiating the polluted environment we live in?  The latest EU strategy is understandably not on the top of many people’s to-do list.

So here are the four key lessons derived from WWF’s assessment of the European Commission’s Energy Roadmap:

1.  Energy savings are the key enabler for decarbonising the energy system;  Unless we do much more to reduce the energy we consume, even the Commission’s conservative predictions for energy savings will not be met.  We can choose either to use power much more efficiently, or we can work out how to pay for the energy we continue to waste, and suffer the consequences of environmental and social impacts.

2.  Now is the window of opportunity for increasing renewable generation;  A significant amount of the EU’s power plants are closing over the coming years.  We can either choose to replace them with job-creating and environment-protecting renewables, or air-polluting and planet destroying fossil fuels.

3.  New fossil fuel infrastructure must be treated with extreme caution; Many people are busy talking up the future role of gas in the EU.  We can either choose to take their arguments for expensive infrastructure at face value, or we can ask ‘how much gas do we really need? and what can we do avoid locking ourselves into unsustainable levels?’

4. Aiming for 95% decarbonisation from the start is a game-changer; Despite the EU’s ambition to reduce emissions by 80-95% by 2050, decision-makers only seem to mention the bottom end of the scale.  We can either accept the risks involved in aiming low, or we can raise our sights and demand the protection we need from the impacts of climate change.

The choices are ours…

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