Those European countries which have cut support schemes for renewable energy, have – just like Professor Butler writing on an FT blog yesterday – jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“Competitiveness is the watchword of the moment. Recession and unemployment are the crises which require attention”, the Professor writes. Yes indeed. Yet withdrawing public support for wind energy and other renewables to boost competitiveness, to tackle recession and unemployment is as illogical as eating an orange a day for your health – and stopping as soon as you get a cold.
The renewables sector employs over 1.2 million people in Europe. Wind energy alone contributed €32 billion to the EU economy in 2010 and employs well over 200,000 people in Europe. Europe is a net exporter of wind energy technology. Support for renewables is support for European jobs; a European industry and European growth.
The world is not on track to reach its goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2°C, warned the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday.
Highlighting the need for intensive action in the energy sector before 2020, the IEA noted that the energy sector accounts for about two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
“Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities,” Marie van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director said in a press release that accompanied the London launch of an IEA report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map. “But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite.”
“This report shows that the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C but also finds that much more can be done to tackle energy-sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments,” van der Hoeven said.
Fatih Birol at the EWEA 2013 Opening Session
Fossil fuel subsidies – which amounted to half a trillion US Dollars worldwide in 2011 – are effectively an incentive to pollute and as such are “public enemy number one to sustainable energy development,” Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency said at EWEA’s 2013 Annual Event in Vienna on Monday.
Christian Kjaer, EWEA CEO, added that European citizens are transferring a rapidly rising share of their wealth to a handful of fossil fuel exporting countries. “In 2009 the EU spent €274 billion on fossil fuels imports – 2.1% of its GDP, a level which increased by €200 billion or 70% over just three years to 2012,” he said. “Today, EU citizens are spending half a billion Euros more each day on fossil fuel imports than they were three years ago,” he added.
“Fossil fuel subsidies do not make sense,” Birol said. Subsidies keep fossil fuels artificially cheap and without a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, we will not reach our climate targets. “I hope governments pay attention this,” Birol stated.
MEPs sitting on the regional development committee have rejected a proposal that would have allowed public subsidies to be spent on fossil fuel infrastructure projects under the European Regional and Development Fund.
The rejection came as part of the Regional Development Committee of the European Parliament’s vote yesterday on the proposed Cohesion Package. The report will decide on how to divide up a budget of €336 billion intended to develop regions, provide transport solutions, renewable energy and structural reform.
The B-20 Summit of global business leaders took place earlier this week in Mexico. In this blog post, cross-posted from the World Economic Forum’s blog, Ditlev Engel, CEO of Vestas Wind Systems, and Simon Upton, Director Environment at the OECD, argue the case for an end to fossil fuel subsidies…
If we are serious about reducing the use of fossil fuels, why would we make them artificially cheaper? But, that is what we are doing through inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Many industrialized countries, for example, still support their coal mining industries to the tune of several billion euros a year while developing countries often spend considerable resources to keep domestic fuel prices below world prices. Eliminating such measures and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies more generally would help reduce fiscal imbalances, increase real incomes, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the overall cost of climate change mitigation. It would thus eliminate a key barrier to the faster deployment of clean energy. A portion of the funds saved from ending such subsidies could also be redirected to support access to energy by all and other policy priorities.