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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Energy and climate, November, 2008

In today's edition:
  1. European energy sector 'continuous environmental threat', warns EEA
  2. EU renewables industry optimistic about 2020 outlook
  3. EU, Brazil 'deepen' energy cooperation
  4. Environment pushes EU to become Arctic player
  5. Knowledge gaps hinder energy-efficient building transition
A rather dark one, and it will get darker in the following posts. Unfortunately, the EU is way too scared of the crisis to make the right decisions. Too bad.

European energy sector 'continuous environmental threat', warns EEA

20 November 2008

Despite improved efficiency in electricity and heat production and a cleaner energy mix, the power sector still produces 80% of European greenhouse gases, putting significant strain on the climate, a new European Environment Agency (EEA) study shows.

The report argues that if Europe continues 'business as usual', energy consumption will rise by up to 26% by 2030 and Europe will remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

On a positive note, the EEA says that a change in the energy mix is taking place in Europe. Renewable energies account for the highest annual growth rate in energy consumption and coal is being replaced by gas in response to environmental constraints. In addition, the EU 27 managed to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2005 by approximately 3% despite an average GDP growth of 2.1%. At the same time, emissions increased by 20% in the US and doubled in China.

Nevertheless, the report points out that the EU is still a long way off its 2020 target of sourcing 20% of all its primary energy from renewables, with the 2005 share standing only at 8.5%. Furthermore, increased electricity consumption at least partially offsets the beneficial environmental effects of a higher share of renewables, the study shows.

The EEA also suggests a trade-off between a reduction in CO2 emissions achieved by a switch to gas and a greater dependency on electricity imports. Europe must prepare to import an ever-greater share of fossil fuels to cover its rising energy demand, as a striking 84% of gas used in the EU could be coming from outside its borders in 2030, the report warns. In 2005, Europe imported more than 54% of its energy needs, with Russia as the largest supplier.

If the EU fails to reach a deal on the climate package at its 11-12 December summit, this would have severe consequences for the prospects for reaching a deal on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol during the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009, particularly as major emitters like China and the US are looking to the EU for cues on climate action. source

My comment: Yeah, one thing impresses me. So, when they are calculating the quantities needed to be reduced by each member state, they use data from 1995 (or whichever it was). When they talk about the huge progress the EU made on decreasing the emissions, they use data from 1990. Well, I'm asking then, what part of those emissions that we happily didn't make are due to the countries that were part of the EU by then and what from the new members. And because I know the answer, I think that the position of the EC should definitely be reconsidered in favour of Eastern members that made so much progress, even if they have much to do also. Or to admit the real progress and stop with this nonsense.

EU renewables industry optimistic about 2020 outlook

19 November 2008

Despite gloomy economic forecasts, manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and other non-fossil fuel technologies say they are ready to deliver more than the bloc's target of sourcing 20% of energy needs from renewables by 2020.

"We can deliver between 33% and 40% of Europe's electricity needs by 2020, depending on energy-efficiency achievements, a share of 25% of heat from renewable energy sources and 10% biofuels by 2020," Arthouros Zervos, president of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), said in a 17 November statement.

EREC has launched a new 'roadmap' that charts how the sector can deliver "much more" than 20% of the EU's energy needs by 2020, on the condition that member states continue to develop their renewables potential and invest in new technologies.

With the EU entering into a recession following turmoil in global financial markets, however, there are concerns in some member states that achieving the targets will be too costly, particularly since many renewables still require state subsidies.

But EREC argues that investments in renewables will lead to significant long-term profits, with the potential to create two million jobs by 2020.

Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency (EEA) argues that bioenergy could deliver almost half of the renewable energy target for 2020, substantially reducing Europe's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions too.

Biomass production might, however, jeopardise the EU's overall environmental goals if appropriate policy and economic incentives are not put in place, the EEA warns. Strong measures must be taken at local and regional level to avoid soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity, the agency said. source

My comment: I absolutely agree with their opinion- now is the best time to deal with the climate and the energy problem at once. Just think about it-investing in solar and wind systems now and their future research of course, can lead to both getting off the chain of energy dependency from Russia and a great decrease in the emissions. This is simply a great opportunity!

EU, Brazil 'deepen' energy cooperation

24 November 2008

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs met Brazil's energy minister in São Paulo last week (20 November) to discuss closer energy relations amid concerns from developing countries that EU calls for strict biofuel sustainability criteria could strangle global trade for plant-based fuels.

The EU and Brazil will hold technical meetings at ministerial level in the coming weeks to discuss regulatory issues and joint efforts for second generation biofuels research, part of preparations for a 22 December EU-Brazil summit in Rio de Janeiro, the European Commission said.

Brussels has been keen to ensure good ties with the world's most important producer of agro or biofuels (notably ethanol) following the bloc's controversial commitment to mandate a 10% share of such fuels in its transport sector by 2020.

Brazil has the greatest potential worldwide for affordable biofuels, experts say. Environmentalists are concerned, however, that increasing cultivation drives up food prices while leading to the further destruction of large swaths of rainforests as developing states look to capitalise on a lucrative EU market.

The Parliament, which is currently in talks with the Council to finalise a new EU law on renewable energies that includes the 10% biofuels target, is pushing for strict sustainability criteria to ensure that those plant-based fuels which enter the EU market are produced according to environmentally sound methods.

But many developing nations say the EU does not have the authority to dictate how and where one of their key export crops is produced, and that the sustainability criteria essentially translate into trade barriers. source

My comment:Ok, now I know what the EC didn't pass the sustainability criteria. If Brazil threatened to fail a complain in WTO, it explains the weird decision of the Council. But I sincerely hope that the Parliament will make the right decision in the case and will refuse to sign this shameful idea. As for Brazil-it can says whatever it want, the buyers has the right to decise what to buy- one more reason why I so hate WTO.

Environment pushes EU to become Arctic player

4 November 2008

The European Union on 20 November announced its intention to become an important stakeholder in the Arctic, mainly by promoting an environmental agenda. The European Commission also indicated that Arctic multilateral governance "could be upgraded and adjusted" to changing realities.

The resource-rich Arctic is becoming increasingly contentious as climate change makes the region more navigable. Formerly frozen territories are now accessible, triggering sovereignty disputes.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

The Commission has decided to apply for observer status in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum for countries and peoples, including the Arctic indigenous communities.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, announced the initiative on Thursday (20 November), presenting a much-anticipated Communication on the Arctic.

Ferrero-Waldner said it was the first time the Union had presented a comprehensive review of its interests in the vast spaces of the Arctic, which are believed to host large amounts of oil and natural gas.

Member states of the Arctic Council include Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

But the commissioner downplayed the Union's interest in developing the Arctic's natural resources. She explained that according to recent surveys, up to 25% of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas could be located in the Arctic, and most of the discovered ore and other resources are either on the territory, or within the exclusive economic zones of the Arctic states.

"Therefore our main concern […] is clearly under the aspect of environmental sustainability," she explained, so that any exploration or exploitation activities would be carried out in accordance with the highest environmental standards.

A pair of Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers took off on 21 November from the Engels airbase in southern Russia on a routine patrol flight over the Arctic Ocean, an Air Force spokesman said, quoted by the Russian media. The spokesperson added that the Russian flights were "performed in strict compliance with international law on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states". It was also indicated that the decision to resume such flights was taken by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself.

Canadian Foreign Minister David Emerson recently expressed concern over illegal Russian flights over Canadian airspace, adding that his country treated such actions in the context of recent Russian actions in Georgia. source

My comment: Now, FUUUN! "Our main concern is environmental sustainability", yeah, right. I'm absolutely sure it has nothing to do with the oil underneath it. Oh well. Even with the wrong motivations, some moves can lead to a good outcome so, this could be actually a good thing. In the end.

Knowledge gaps hinder energy-efficient building transition

24 November 2008

Technology to deliver "dramatic" cuts in emissions already exists, but knowledge gaps and old habits mean progress in being made "at a snail's pace," argues the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in a new report.

Energy savings in buildings could deliver larger CO2 cuts than the entire emissions of the transport sector based on 2050 projections, says the global business association in the latest progress reportexternal for its 'Energy Efficiency in Buildings' project.

The European Council has identified the rapid pace of new construction in developing countries as an opportunity to introduce standards for lowering CO2 emissions in the sector, but also stresses that developed countries must refurbish their existing stock to lower energy consumption.

WBCSD concludes that building professionals' misjudgement of costs and benefits represents a major obstacle to the project's goal of having all new buildings consume zero net energy from external power supplies and producing zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. "They seriously over-estimate the cost of achieving energy efficiency and underestimate the potential to reduce emissions," it says.

The WBCSD argues that changes to individual behaviour are essential to supporting more energy efficiency, on the part of both building professionals and users. Energy is taken for granted in developed countries, which leads to "thoughtless waste", while developing countries often consider its use as a status symbol, it says, concluding that the challenge will be raising awareness to change consumption patterns permanently.

Developing countries in particular could make huge savings by investing in more energy-efficient buildings, according to a recent reportPdf external published by McKinsey(EurActiv 29/10/08). The management consulting firm argued that sizeable investments in new capital stock made as a result of rapid economic growth in these countries offer an opportunity to "lock in lower energy consumption for decades to come" by building at the optimal level of energy efficiency. source
My comment: I already commented this in a previous post. I agree. That's all. I just hope that developed countries will decide to support developing ones and their citizens in the turning to efficiency. Otherwise, it will be a cruel winter. Not to mention what would happen if the same measures are applied in the developed countries themselves.

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