Investigate Europe found that every year, the EU gives fossil fuel companies a subsidy of €137 billion. Because loopholes make definitions vague and control difficult, many countries hide their support programs. Some examples show how this affects EU climate goals and the European Green Deal.
The sky, air quality, and carbon levels improved after Covid-19 was locked down. Even though lockdowns are getting less common in most of Europe and governments want to get their economies back on track, it is at least acknowledged that going back to the old "normal" will bring us closer to the next crisis, which is climate change.
The EU's big plan for the environment was also due in 2020. The "European Green Deal," a plan by the European Commission to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050, is being criticized for not going far enough and being too weak to make a real difference. The fossil fuel industry is still getting money from European governments. Help comes from tax breaks, the capacity market, and the ETS. Investigate Europe wanted to know how the subsidies given by the EU, UK, CH, and NO hurt their own goals.
Germany has €37 billion yearly, more than the UK, Italy, or France.
Each year, fossil fuels like coal, lignite, gas, and oil are subsidized by at least €137bn in the 30 countries of the European Economic Zone and the UK. EU gives out €155 billion every year.
The EU wants to have no net effect on the climate by 2050. By 2030, the EU countries promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to what they were in 1990. To get the economy off of carbon as promised, the EU needs a 55% cut. With these grants, neither goal can be reached. Frans Timmermans, in charge of the European Green Deal, says they will be phased out.
In May, Portugal said it had gone "52 days without coal." Early in June, the UK replied with "sixty-seven days." Poland took a slow step.
The open-pit coal is always burned at the Bechatów Lignite Mine and Power Plant. As the largest lignite power plant in the world, it puts out 37 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. The chasm in the opencast can be seen from space. In the past two years, arsenic, zinc, lead, nickel, copper, and chromium emissions have increased by more than 50%. Mercury is on the rise.
That the fossil fuel industry has a lot of power in national governments and EU institutions because it has "strong lobbying."
Pascal Canfin, who is in charge of the Environment Committee of the EP, is more direct. "There is a lobby for every fossil fuel tax break and subsidy," he says. Monday, it was the truckers, and Wednesday, it could be someone else. Some groups have negotiated with our government to get tax breaks and lower their energy bills. This helps the fossil fuel industry.
Some plans could go wrong. According to the European Commission, the EU Emissions Trading System is "a cornerstone of EU climate change policy and its main tool for cost-effectively cutting greenhouse gas emissions" (EU ETS).
The program cuts down on the pollution from factories and power plants. This process is called "cap and trade" by economists. The states set an annual limit on the number of emission allowances, which are then sold at auction to the businesses that make the emissions.
The number goes down every year, encouraging businesses to invest in equipment that cuts down on emissions (and sells unused licenses) or buy more permits if they run out. Lobbyists and politicians can mess with this system.
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