December 9 2015 | 5:15 - 6:45 pm | Civil Society Space "Climate Generations Area" Le Bourget | salle 2
The European Union is strongly focused on developing a European energy strategy. Unfortunately, this does not involve positioning fossil fuels as a long outdated element. Very much to the contrary, the representatives of large fossil corporations are permanent guests at the EU Commission. Their lobbyism bears fruit. The EU clearly appears to be willing to put the focus on gas as a main energy source because it sees gas as an essential supplement for renewables and therefore declares this a model for the future. This approach is also increasingly accompanied by attacks on and a dismantlement of the necessary support for renewables.
The event 'EU Energy Strategies and Progressive Alternatives', organised by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung's Brussels office, revealed these flaws in European energy policy and demanded a rethink.
EU energy policy focuses far too much on the expansion of the gas supply and the development of so-called 'clean coal technology' (in particular carbon capture and storage, or CCS). Renewables are only insufficiently subsidised and smaller power suppliers such as small energy cooperatives particularly suffer under this policy, as the EU parliamentarian Cornelia Ernst (DIE LINKE) criticised. 'Ultimately, the energy union is a gas union and this is the wrong approach,' Ernst argued. EU financing mechanisms are also heading in the wrong direction. Many projects support the expansion of fossil fuels as a source of energy. In particular in the natural gas sector, to achieve greater independence from Russia, new alliances are being established, for example with Israel, Egypt or even Azerbaijan. An additional danger is that TTIP could further open up European markets for US fracking gas.
Emissions trading, the EU's showcase instrument for climate protection, is also of little help. A ton of carbon dioxide now costs only seven euros. If investments in climate protection are to make sense for companies (and drive the urgently needed transition to a climate friendly economy), then certificates would have to cost between 40 and 70 euros.
Spain as the EU's new gas dealer
Spain has an important role to play in the reorientation of European energy policy. Due to the country's geographical location, it is potentially Europe's new gas supply centre. Alfonso Perez, from the Spanish NGO Observatory on Debt in Globalization, participated in the discussion to present what he sees as a problem here: 'In energy terms, Spain is an island, there is too little infrastructure connecting us with Europe'. The EU has therefore planned several gas pipelines as 'Projects of Common Interest' to connect Spain to the EU market. Spain's gas deals so far, however, have shown that the investments are not profitable. Many gas companies overestimated the size of the market and heavily indebted themselves. Consumers are now footing these costs via their gas bills.
To a certain degree, the situation is absurd. Spain has, for example, concluded long-term deals with Algerian gas corporations and still has to buy this gas even though the country does not need it. According to Perez, Spain therefore has to then sell on the gas it buys to Asia. As Perez stated, both the content of the agreements and the gas resale price are kept secret. In Catalonia, anger at this situation is growing among the population, with citizens protesting against further gas pipelines and new gas fired power stations. As Perez said, 'We protest, because this is wholly unacceptable. Our friends in North Africa also do not want this colonial style exploitation of their resources.'
The power of the fossil lobbies
The panel agreed that in UN climate negotiations in general, but also in the stance taken by the EU in these negotiations, the influence of large energy corporations is tangible. And this not only in that, for example, the French energy corporation EDF is allowed to sponsor the climate summit and therefore present itself as a climate protector. Through such measures corporations such as EDF buy access to the debate. 'This is not about pointing a finger at the UN climate secretariat,' said Pascoe Sabido, from the Brussels-based lobby watchdog NGO Corporate Europe Observatory. 'The situation is symptomatic of a problem at the nation state level.' It is fatal that governments appear to have no problem with corporations being so close to negotiations and with the role they play.
Whilst fossil fuel corporations can continue to demonstrate their strength, massive blows are being dealt to the influence of the supporters of renewables, who have more or less fallen victim to the lobbyism of the large fossil fuel corporations. Not only do pro-fossil lobbyists have all the doors open at the EU, the representatives of these corporations are even appointed as official consultants. A World Coal Association representative, for example, consults the EU in questions of energy policy.
Non-binding agreements and strategies celebrate the purportedly voluntary activities of companies for better climate protection as successes. As Sabido emphasises, true government control is, however, non-existent. This is why it is so important to scrutinise the relevant EU policies closely and critically over the coming years.