Tuesday, 16 March 2010

European Parliament Calling for Investment in Low Carbon Tech

The European Parliament has asked the Commission to invest more money in innovative technologies that would help cut greenhouse gasses by 20% by 2020.

This resolution was supported by the EPP, S&D, ALDE and ECR while the GUE/NGL and Greens/EFA voted against as they argued the goals are not ambitious enough. The right wing (EFD) voted against as they said that such investments should be made at national not at EU level.

All Maltese MEPs voted in favor of the resolution.

But what is the resolution all about?

The European Union must reduce its greenhouse gasses by 20% by 2020 (or 30% if other international partners take on a similar ambitious target). For this to be achieved new technologies must be used as a solution to the current scenario where fossil fuel is burnt with carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas, being released unattended into the atmosphere- the main cause of climate change.

Research and development in this area is being given a lot of importance with millions of euros being invested throughout EU research institutes to either fine tune current low carbon technologies or invent new ones.

The six European Industrial Initiatives (EII) are, as the name implies, initiatives undertaken in six areas which can help reduce greenhouse gasses from finding their way into the atmosphere. These are solar energy, wind energy, bio-energy, carbon dioxide capture, transport and storage, the electricity grid and sustainable nuclear fission.
Over the next 10 years, the European Commission identified the need for investments in these areas of:
  • 6 billion euros for wind energy;
  • 16 billion euros for solar energy;
  • 2 billion euros for electricity networks;
  • 9 billion euros for bio-energy;
  • 13 billion euros for carbon capture and storage;
  • 7 billion euros for nuclear fission and
  • 5 billion euros for fuel cells and hydrogen

There is also the SET Plan (Strategic Energy Technology Plan) which aims to accelerate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies. This has the potential to turn the EU into an innovative economy, creating thousands of new jobs.

In this resolution, the European Parliament (EP) urges more investment for both the EII and the SET-Plan to continue being implemented at the fastest possible rate. It reiterates that those technologies which have the greatest potential to create jobs should be given priority.
The EP is calling, amongst others, for the urgent establishment of a funding timetable by the Commission and the Member States of the resources they will commit to ensure that funds start flowing as from 2010. It is also calling to use the 300 million euros set aside from a mechanism in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) to support carbon capture and storage and innovative renewable sources of energy and for the European Investment Bank to increase its capacity to offer loans to energy projects.
The EP “asks the Commission, in close cooperation with the EIB, to come forward without delay, and by 2011 at the latest, with a comprehensive proposal for an instrument to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and smart grids development”.

I would like to draw the attention to one amendment that was proposed by Greens/ALE:

Motion for a resolution


5. Underlines that, in the light of the economic crisis, investing in those new technologies that have the greatest potential for job creation should be a priority; underlines that it will lead to the creation of markets, generate new revenue streams and contribute to the development of the EU’s economy and competitiveness; stresses, finally, that it will, furthermore, strengthen the security of the EU’s energy supply and reduce its energy dependency on a limited number of energy resources, suppliers and transport routes;

5. Underlines that, in the light of the economic and the employment crisis, as well as the need for global GHG emissions to peak by 2015, the EU must only invest in those new safe technologies and implement those roadmaps which will have an immediate impact in terms of employment, social cohesion and climate protection; underlines that it will lead to the creation of markets, generate new revenue streams and contribute to the development of the EU’s economy and competitiveness; stresses, finally, that it will, furthermore, strengthen the security of the EU’s energy supply and reduce its energy dependency on a limited number of energy resources, suppliers and transport routes;

*The phrases in bold are those which were amended

This amendment was voted against by the majority of Parliament. Can we make our greenhouse gasses peak by 2015? Is it too ambitious? What will be the repercussions if we don’t? What is needed for this to happen?

With regards to the resolution passed by the EP, I think Malta is in dire need of low carbon technologies. We are finally starting to invest in wind farms, PVs, energy efficiency, smart grids and more. Although limited in size, it is still a pity that we are practically completely depended on fossil fuels for our energy generation. If low carbon technologies come our way, we can do much more. We can extract energy from our seas for example. We can start using hydrogen fuel to power our cars. We mustn’t be afraid to change our way. The possibilities are only limited by human creativity and we’d better put our money where our mouth is because catastrophic climate change is not as distant as we thought it might be.


During this same week questions relating to the UN report on the War on Gaza or Operation Cast Lead as it was code named had been sent to our elected representatives. Each one failed to reply to our questions even after reminders where sent.

Furthermore, a question relating to the Financial Transaction Tax (a tax claimed to have the potential of funding action against climate change and poverty) was replied only by Dr Edward Scicluna in his capacity as member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The following are extracts from his statements in the Committee:

Since then, the Commission has been investigating the subject, and we are highlighting here the large range of questions needing to be answered. There have been calls, including in the G20 last September, to make the financial sector pay for setting up stability funds and recompense for the damage that they have caused to the real economy. President Barroso has suggested using a global financial levy to fund environmental projects. The original Tobin Tax idea of using a financial transaction tax for development aid has also strongly resurfaced. .........
....... One idea concerning the tax is that nobody would notice because it is so small in each instance. On the other hand, others suggest it should be used to deter excessive transactions. It seems to my committee that if the end amount collected is large – and the sums suggest so – then somebody somewhere will actually be paying. ...............
......... . If the tax is collected in London for a derivative transaction that is uncosted, to somewhere else in the world, who says where to spend it? This question may be easier to answer if it goes to a financial stability cause in which the payers are obviously participating than if it is to go outside the financial sphere, such as to environmental projects or development aid. ...........

Further reading is suggested on this matter as the form and extent of such a tax will imply from another EU wide form of taxation and the possibility of a tax linked directly to an international Humanitarian cause. Civil Society has already mobilised in support of such a tax form through the Robin Hood Tax Campaign. Their video can be see here:

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