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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog

 

The European elections and the climate

Environmental issues and the global warming are at the top of the proposals inscribed in the Renaissance list of proposals for the European elections, a list which has the support of “La République en Marche”, the president of the Republic political party. This preoccupation is legitimated but has it really the full significance it is attributed to it in this debate? The first question to which it is necessary to answer it about the future alliances to be constituted between the elected people groups which will have seats at the European Parliament. The two main groups which would emerge from the vote are dominated by the members of the political formations which today constitute the grand coalition in Germany, the social-democrats and the CDU-CSU. Last poll opinions show that if we add their elected members, they would be near the absolute majority, 375 seats, but without reaching it. It would be logical that the elected members of the Renaissance list join these two groups. Then, their union will have the majority. Despite of that, no such commitment has yet been formulated. It is surprising that during the dozens of hours of public debate or T.V. interviews made during this electoral campaign, the nature of the alliances which will be constituted and the consistency of the programs of the concerned formations has not, until now, be evocated.

This consistency is especially essential for the Renaissance list. If it doesn’t make an alliance with the two majors groups and as no other alternative is imaginable, its elected members, like National Front ones since 2014, will not have any significant influence on future European deliberations. In the opposite case, which would be a logical choice, regarding France will to lean on its German partner to make European construction to progress, a major difficulty is appearing: the proposals this list has just made public are in a total opposition, regarding the fight against climate change with the German ones. The French governments, which has run the country these last years have not really tried and then succeeded to obtain from their neighbor as from Poland, an inflexion in their energy policy to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. The choice, in 2014, of the chief of the Polish government, Donald Tusk, to head the European Union Council, has not more incited this country to bow to European orientations.

Emissions statistics in 2018 Eurostat has just published are yet overwhelming. Germany alone emits 22% of the whole European CO2 emissions, and Poland, whose population is twice smaller, 10%. Another bad pupil, Nederland, produces 5% of the emissions with a population four times less numerous than German one. These two countries have, at least reduced their emissions by 5% in 2018 when Poland increased its ones by 3.5%, being the only European country with a population above 10 million to do that. German emissions per inhabitant are twice higher than the French ones. The country, yet, has invested a lot in renewable, solar and wind to produce its electricity. The government, at the end of 2011, under ecologist pressure, has also made the choice to close its nuclear power plants in the coming years. To guarantee the safety of power supply, and due to the renewable intermittence, Germany, then, has preferred to keep in activity its coal and brown coal power plants which produce respectively 15% and 25% of the electricity. This explains the persistence of the CO2 emissions very high level.

Many of these power plants are located in the former East Germany. They are not only a threat for the climate. They also emit, as in Poland, particles quite as toxic as these which are going out of the diesel engines of cars and especially of heavy trucks on roads and in cities. Local populations, who would be the first ones to be concerned, have made for a long time the choice to defend the keeping into activity of these plats and the pursuit of mines working which supplies them. Populist parties support these demands and their rise in many areas has been the consequence of this situation. But they are not the only ones. Greenpeace activists on some of these sites continue to maintain, for instance, that the mining activity in Silesia is more than an economic need. It is a way of life.  

Poland is highly subsidizing its coal sector when Germany, through its “Energiewende” program has offered massive public and European subsidies to solar and wind energy producers. Both countries strongly opposed the main policy put in place by Brussels regarding environment, the allocation of CO2 quotas. The allocated amount was too large to make significantly more expensive fossil fuels utilization and to make them less competitive. Each time it was proposed to reduce allocations to make the value of a CO2 ton to rebound, Berlin definitely opposed to it. Despite of that, since 2018 second half, market values have at last rebounded and the European policy is starting to produce effects, but this device will be very insufficient to allow reaching the objectives proposed by the Renaissance program. Representatives from political parties in power in Germany as in Poland or in Nederland who will have seats in the European Parliament will definitely not support these proposals.

The best way to rapidly reduce the amount of CO2 generated by power production in the countries using coal is not to invest in renewable or to go to a “decarbonized” society as some are pretending in France but to transform coal power plants into natural gas power plant or, but it will take a much longer time, to build nuclear power plants. The American and Chinese examples, two countries which are the most important CO2 emitters in the world, are revealing. Donald Trump withdrawal from Paris Agreement about climate must not conceal reality. The U.S. have succeeded to reduce for five years their emissions thanks to a massive transfer from coal to natural gas in the American power mix. The put into production of shale resources has allowed to reduce costs and to make this solution competitive. China has succeeded to stabilize its emissions after the very strong increase of the past ten years through pressure, sometimes with constraining rules, on major power producers in order to incite them to use natural gas. Germany is starting to follow that direction. Both gas pipelines, Nordstream 1, already in activity, and Nordstream 2, in construction despite Denmark opposition, are contributing to guarantee the country supply. But Poland which is afraid of being dependant of Russian natural gas is refusing it and is not ready to support the adoption of constraining European rules.

Europe will have, in the future, and the European Parliament will play there its full role, to determine realistic objectives regarding environment and to endow itself with the tools to make them respected. But it will be necessary that the political forces which become allied find a base for an agreement. So the elected representatives belonging to the Renaissance list will not be able to support the aggressive positions in Strasburg they have put in their proposals when the political movement to which they belong is the most loyal supporter of an executive power which has been indulgent toward the opponents in Europe to this policy. It is  a credibility issue.                 

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