The Salzgitter AG steelworks, one of Europe's largest steel producers
The crisis has nevertheless given an impetus within the EU for Member States to adopt policies in line with the objectives of the Green Deal, nuance for his part Matthias Duwe, climate director of the Ecologic Institute, a think tank based in Berlin, Germany. He cites as an example the REPowerEU plan, adopted in May 2022, which aims to free the EU from its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
In response to this crisis, coal burning nevertheless increased and new infrastructure, such as liquefied natural gas terminals, was financed, Duwe agrees. The risk, he says, is that some of the money will no longer be available for clean technologies if it is invested in fossil fuel infrastructure.
If it were better invested, adds Ms Pastorelli, this money could be used to resolve the problems of energy poverty which affect nearly 10% of European Union citizens. Around 42 million people were unable to adequately heat their homes in 2022, according to data from the European Economic and Social Committee, the EU's advisory body.
It's not just about climate and energy efficiency; it’s irresponsible towards [EU] citizens,” says Silvia Pastorelli. Instead of financing the use of fossil fuels, these sums should allow the implementation of proven solutions, such as energy-efficient renovations and the installation of heat pumps.
Across EU Member States, some countries have encountered resistance to climate policies from elected officials or citizens.
This is the case in Germany, where a bill to ban all heating systems powered by fossil fuels has sparked discontent for months. Under pressure from the liberal FDP, members of the government coalition, the text was watered down before finally being adopted last September.
However, these turmoil did not result in a weakening of the position defended by the European Union, according to Mr. Duwe. According to him, the European delegation can present itself at COP28 with its head held high.
This divide between the most progressive countries, like Denmark, and the countries more conservative, like Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic, on climate issues is not new, adds Tom Delreux.
These differences, he points out, do not compromise the EU's ability to find common ground between states.
The EU's position at COP28 on the exit from fossil fuels reflects these compromises, according to Mr. Delreux. The abandonment of fossil fuels “without mitigation” is a position halfway between those who wish to achieve the energy transition and those who want to put the brakes on it, he says in substance.
This is what we call “constructive ambiguity”, which still allows us to progress, he explains -he. This is very typical of the EU.
With 27 States to rally around common positions, it is inevitable that the cruising speed will differ from one country to another, recognizes Colin Roche. Despite some more refractory countries, the need to fight climate change is, according to him, a consensus among Europeans.
Despite everything, that's not enough. The level of ambition is not there. And that's the [most distressing] observation: even when we see an effort to move forward, it's not enough.
A quote from Colin Roche, Energy and Climate Justice Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe
After a year marked by extreme heat waves and forest fires, the European Union will have to find a way to maintain its image as climate leader in the face of the international community gathered in Dubai, according to Silvia Pastorelli.
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Former Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra will attend COP28 in Dubai as EU climate commissioner for the first time.
This is the challenge that will fall in particular on the new environment commissioner, the former Minister of Finance of the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra. The background of this former Shell and McKinsey employee, however, shows that he was never really concerned about the climate issue, maintains Ms. Pastorelli. So this will be a test.
If the European Union wants to be a leader during these negotiations, it must see this COP as the x27;one of the last opportunities to act to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5°C, she insists. The crisis is neither elsewhere nor in the future: it is here and now.