Media – Web, October 2013

“MEPs have called on EU Member States to support the stricter enforcement of EU environmental law and endorsed the seventh EU environmental action programme. This programme that will run until 2020, will structure the EU's entire environmental policy, from water management to climate change.

In order to address these issues, MEPs have called on Member States to enforce EU environmental law more rigorously, providing security for investments that support environmental policy and efforts to combat climate change, and taking more account of environmental concerns in other policies.”

“Green German electricity has been subsidised for slightly more than 10 years, while fossil fuels and nuclear power have been effective subsidy seekers for decades. The puzzling fact is that nobody knows exactly the cumulative amount of these subsidies. Even more astonishing is that high level decision makers - like Commissioner Oettinger – are apparently resisting to even find out the truth.  What else explains why Commissioner Oettinger is getting rid of what little evidence his staff provided through their research into the matter. […]

Commissioner Oettinger now has the opportunity to enable a more robust and transparent discussion based on a global understanding of energy subsidies and to debunk the myths of renewables. Surely this is a minimum requirement from the European Commission. […]

In this context, it is a shameful and unacceptable move to deliberately opt for non-transparency. One can only suppose it is  a conscious decision to continue protecting fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies while we know those energy sources remain massively (but discretely) subsidised despite their maturity.”

“A mixture of the global financial crisis and lethargy from senior politicians has contributed to climate change slipping down the agenda in the UK, according to a leading climate scientist.

Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, criticised the coalition government’s green record, and added that there was a misconception that the green agenda and the economic agenda were somehow contradictory.”

“The chief executives of 10 energy companies accounting for half of Europe's electricity production capacity issued a joint call Friday to end subsidies to wind and solar power, saying the mechanisms have led to whopping bills for households and businesses and could cause continent-wide blackouts. 

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, the CEOs also urged European Union authorities to set up a system that would compensate electricity companies that agree to maintain spare capacity on standby--a practice that helps increase the security of Europe's highly interconnected power grid.”

“How did Portugal assume such impressive leadership in the clean energy transition? The key, as usual, lies in ambitious supportive policies. Prior to 2000, Portugal's transmission lines were owned by private power companies that had no interest in investing in renewables, as the deployment of these technologies would require radical changes in the grid infrastructure and therefore raise costs. To address this barrier, the government bought the lines and began adapting the grid to renewables requirements, including more flexibility and a better grid connection in remote areas to allow the production and distribution of electricity from small generators, such as domestic solar panels.

A combination of incentives was implemented to attract investors. Feed-in tariffs (FIT) - which guarantee producers of renewable energy a specified price for every megawatt-hour of power fed into the grid - were first introduced in Portugal in 1988 and have increasingly evolved into a highly sophisticated system with individual prices for each renewable energy source. The latest tariff stipulations, issued in 2005 and 2007, take into account environmental considerations, the level of technology development, and the inflation rate. The government also integrated new technologies such as Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and tidal power into the system.”

“And yet, not all is rosy in the garden of green shoots. The IMF has just revised down its global growth forecast for the sixth consecutive time, whilst unemployment in Europe remains at near-record levels and threatens a jobless recovery. Recent reports from Oxfam and the Red Cross argue that the impact of austerity on European society will prove devastating even if the economy begins to recover, whilst others point out that debt-levels in Europe have actually increased under austerity (though they have also increased in the US thanks to its policy of fiscal stimulus, to the extent that the current political deadlock over the debt-ceiling may unwittingly reignite the crisis).”

“There is very little to be cheerful about five years into our “great recession”: financial markets are more than ever a fertile ground for global crisis; government have as modest power to control them and less resources to clean up their mess; Americans and Europeans in their vast majority find themselves marred in a “great regression” of their standards of living and expectations. 

European integration was always much deeper than economic inter-dependence, which was the genius ruse of the founding fathers to overcome political divisions and bind bellicose sovereign powers to peace through trade. But economic mismanagement has threatened to undo decades of patient sovereignty pooling that makes the EU an unprecedented political and cultural experiment and a laboratory for global governance. By truly committing to the green economy, Europe would essentially be reaffirming its existential attachment to lasting peace. The European Union has survived the crisis, brilliant, now it should get back to securing the future of Europeans.”

“Germany should not dismiss gas fracking technology that has boosted US industry, nor unilaterally overexpose itself to climate protection efforts, European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said on Tuesday (3 September). [… ]

Turning to current EU climate policies, Oettinger warned that the bloc risked investing in too many ideas and research while it only accounts for a small part of global emissions. […]

"It is becoming increasingly questionable whether our pioneering activities can be financed when the rest of the world does not follow suit," he said.”

This crisis is not simply fiscal; it is the reflection of an unsustainable development paradigm which is based on overconsumption and results in an ever increasing ecological deficit. The imposed corrective measures implemented in a state of panic and explained to a deeply skeptical public as a solution to the economic downturn, are narrowly conceived economic fixes based on highly questionable assumptions. Often their effect is simply to aggravate a longer term and much deeper crisis, with profound ecological, humanitarian and economic dimensions.

A crisis is always a herald to the need for change! The current calamity offers a unique opportunity for an integrated policy roadmap to an ecological transition not only for Greece’s economy, but for the entire EU. Its aim needs to be the articulation of a new development paradigm, based on comprehensive ecological reform at all levels, which will boost innovative and competitive entrepreneurship and produce good livelihoods for all.

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