REPowerEU: A Great dichotomy between policies and persuasions

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Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan

Islamabad, July 26: REPowerEU: A Great dichotomy between policies and persuasions:  This was stated by Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, Director of Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, CPEC & BRI in his article published by Gwadar Pro on Tuesday

Most recently, the European Commission (EC) has published its latest REPOWEREU plan which covers four main areas, i.e. energy efficiency and savings; energy supply diversification; clean-energy transition acceleration; investment and reform.

According to the plan, it would end Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian energy supplies by 2027. Moreover, it would accelerate its green transformation which would be economically beneficial for Europe.

However, it requires an additional investment of €210 billion between now and 2027. Apparently, it seems like a tough task for the EU because of weak economic conditions of the region and the world alike.  

The current policies of the European Union (EU) and the US are dangerously contradicting with their earlier noble commitments of achieving carbon neutrality and mitigating climate change.

The global coal-fired electricity generators, mainly in the EU and US, are producing more power than ever before in response to the booming electricity demand and the surging price of gas.

Earlier this month, federal lawmakers, including members of the Green Party of Germany, the largest economy of the EU, approved a plan to allow mothballed coal-fired power plants to resume operations, if and when needed. Netherland, the “land of tulips”, and many other EU countries are also abruptly switching energy production towards coal, widening the gap between energy policies and principal stances on climate change.

Flaws and fallacies of the REPowerEU plan and its implementation vividly reflect chronic double standards of the advanced countries and self-acclaimed champions of climate change.

Moreover, the European continent is currently confronting with scorching heat wave which has badly disturbed its social fabrics and economic growth patterns. Roads are melting and railways are de-shaped. Green has become brown and plants are dying throughout the EU countries. With the increase in coal production, it will be even severer.

Europe’s thirst for oil and gas to replace sanctioned Russian supply is reviving the interest in African energy projects that were shunned due to costs and climate change concerns.

According to Reuters, energy firms are considering projects with a total worth of $100 billion on the African continent. African countries that currently have little or no oil and gas output, including Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania, could see billions in energy investments in the coming years. Thus, despite the bitter realities of the past colonization of the EU, the African continent has once again become the darling of the EU for the sake of its own benefit.

Namibia alone could provide around half a million barrels per day in new oil production, following promising exploratory wells in recent months.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Africa as a whole could replace as much as one-fifth of Russian gas exports to Europe by 2030 and an additional 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) of African gas a year could flow to Europe by then.

The EU had previously been committed to its net-zero emission goals for 2050. Whereas many EU countries are now scrambling for new coal sources, no European country has yet reversed its commitment to phase out coal by 2030. Germany, Austria, France, and the Netherlands recently announced plans to enable increased coal power generation.

According to Bloomberg, Europe has imported more than 1 million barrels per day via the SuMed pipeline in the first three weeks of July, nearly double from a year ago. The volumes in the pipeline, which transits through Egypt, are mostly Saudi oil but also include Iraqi crude.

Energy geopolitics has forced Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to travel to Algeria to draw up an agreement to boost gas imports by 20 percent, even amid a political crisis at home threatening to bring down his government.

Likewise, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Azerbaijan to sign a deal to increase gas flow through a network of pipelines from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

Europe has lost its so-called “high moral status” in combating climate change. 

The US, another vanguard and custodian of clean energy, has also increased coal production in its country. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated that the country’s coal production in the first quarter this year is up 6 percent from the same period last year.

US President Joe Biden’s imbalanced policy of declaring a climate emergency and European countries switching toward coal-fired energy production have raised serious questions about their political commitments and economic ability to follow the comprehensive policies and plans to fight against climate change by implementing clean energy doctrine.

At the COP26 Climate Summit, 40 developed countries committed to shifting away from coal. Even major coal-using countries including Poland, Vietnam, and Chile pledged to switch away from coal. In a separate commitment, 20 countries, including the US, pledged to end public financing for “undiminished” fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022. However, the current energy policies of the EU and US are categorically paradoxical.  

So the US and EU should avoid criticizing others on the issue of coal. It is very difficult to cajole developing countries to abandon coal while reopening their own coal-fired power plants. Energy insecurity has now fueled food shortages in most the developing and under-developed countries, due to which the levels of poverty and unemployment are on the rise.

To conclude, coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, and phasing it out is a key step to achieving the emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Most emissions from coal are in the electricity sector and the EU’s current decision to increase coal-fired electricity will sabotage global efforts of curbing climate change.

The EU is currently confronted with heat waves and protests, demanding immediate imposition of high taxes on fossil fuel energy companies to save the continent and communities alike.

It is suggested that the West which has labeled itself as the vanguard on climate change should stop playing the blame game and dirty politics of unilateral sanctions to sandwich the poor, under-developed, and developing countries on the issue of primitive energy production.

Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should be the mantra of every government in the world because it is the only way forward to curb climate change. Otherwise, wildfires may even aflame metropolitan cities in the days to come.