In three short weeks, on the 23rd and 24th of October, Europe’s political leaders will meet in Brussels to agree on a European energy policy that will last for decades to come.
These politicians are under pressure, especially after the climate summit in NYC. They know they have to do more than talk and wring their hands about global warming. Europeans are expecting them to act.
As winter approaches, President Putin is likely to continue threats to turn off the tap to Europe. The fossil fuel lobby is working hard to convince a political leader that, despite what is happening in Ukraine, and in my home country of Hungary (where the government is folding under Russian pressure), we should not upset the Russian government. The suggestion is: staying quiet will help us stay warm. And the safest bet is to ignore calls for more renewable energy.
We know that the most secure energy is renewable energy, and every wind turbine we build cuts Europe’s fossil fuel bill. The EU pays more than €400 billion every year, to buy more than half of its energy (53%) from abroad.
The cost of renewable energy continues to drop despite receiving smaller public subsidies than either the nuclear or fossil fuel sectors. According to leaked EU figures, in 2011 those industries soaked up a combined €60 billion in public subsidies in the EU – double the amount given to renewable energy producers in the same year.
Then you factor in the health costs of choosing fossil fuels. Air pollution from burning coal alone is costing Europeans €42.8 billion in annual health costs, while the unsolved problem of radioactive waste and nuclear decommissioning costs will continue to drain resources for generations. For instance, to extend the life of the French nuclear fleet to 50 years would, according to EDF, cost €55 billion.
Furthermore, we know that renewables provide jobs. By 2011 the renewable energy business in the EU had already created between 800,000 and 1.2 million jobs. (Commission staff working document 2014: Impact assessment for a 2030 climate and energy policy framework).
And then there is the low hanging fruit: energy efficiency. Every single country in Europe wants to use energy more efficiently. Who in their right mind would be against saving energy? I have never heard a politician say wasting energy is a good plan.
We want politicians to recognise that the people who voted for them have said what they want over and over, most recently by joining climate marches across the globe. Renewable energy = energy security.
We want to ensure that these politicians listen to the people who put them in the rooms of power, not just the fossil fuel and nuclear industries who are loudly knocking on the door. They are knocking on politicians’ doors because they are scared. Their business model is outdated. They haven’t invested in renewable energy when it is clearly the way of the future. Instead, the core of their business depends on importing dirty fossil fuels from volatile regimes and maintaining Europe’s geopolitical vulnerability.
Greenpeace is calling on Europe’s politicians to agree on a 45% share of renewables, 40% energy savings and 55% cut in domestic carbon emissions in their energy policy for 2030.
The next step towards the final agreement takes place on Monday October 6th in Milan, Italy. EU energy and environment ministers will prepare the ground for the big leaders’ meeting two weeks later.
We want all those ministers to hear from their home countries before they arrive in Milan. We want our supporters to call on them to support more energy efficiency, more renewables and greater carbon cuts.
We want to remind them who they’re working for.
Let’s speak with one formidable, unavoidable voice for the future we want: renewables and efficiency are our greatest security.
If you live in Europe tweet your energy minister today! Tell him or her you want renewables and energy efficiency for a secure energy future.
Virag Kaufer is a European project coordinator, Energy at Greenpeace Hungary.
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