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At IEA Summit, UN chief urges countries to scrap coal, boost clean energy transition



United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on July 9 to invest in reliable, clean and economically smart renewable energy.

“I am encouraged that some COVID response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core,” he said at the first-ever International Energy Agency (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

At a virtual meeting chaired by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, ministers representing over 80% of the global economy discussed how to achieve a definitive peak in global carbon dioxide emissions and put the world on course for a sustainable and resilient recovery.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson participated as well as ministers from the world’s largest energy users, including, China, United States, India, Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and Spain.

Speakers highlighted that the IEA Summit comes at a pivotal moment when the world faces urgent and shared challenges to build back economies, create jobs and accelerate clean energy transitions, the IEA said in a press release.

Guterres noted that the EU and the Republic of Korea have committed to green recovery plans. Nigeria has reformed its fossil fuel subsidy framework. Canada has placed climate disclosure conditions on its bail-out support.

“And a growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. But many have still not got the message. Some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially. Others have chosen to jumpstart coal-fired power plants that don’t make financial or environmental sense,” Guterres said, citing new research on G20 recovery packages released this week, which shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.

“Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route for three vital reasons — health, science and economics,” the UN Secretary General said.

He warned that worldwide, outdoor air pollution is causing close to 9 million early deaths every year and shortening human lifespans by an average of three years.

Moreover, he noted that all around the world, every month, there is new evidence of the increasing toll of climate disruption. “We must limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert more and worse disasters. This means net-zero emissions by 2050, and 45 percent cuts by 2030 from 2010 levels. This is still achievable,” Guterres said.

He stressed that clean energy makes economic sense. “Per kilowatt hour, solar energy is now cheaper than coal in most countries. If we had any doubt about the direction the wind is blowing, the real economy is showing us. The business case for renewable energy is now better than coal in virtually every market. Fossil fuels are increasingly risky business with fewer takers,” he said.

The IEA Executive Director issued a first call in March to put clean energy at the heart of the Covid-19 recovery. This early marker was followed by a comprehensive series of ‘damage assessments’ for how the crisis is impacting all fuels and all technologies; actionable recommendations for economic recovery plans; and the full utilisation of the IEA’s ever-growing convening power, the EIA said.

The World Energy Investment report in May warned of a 20% plunge in global energy investment in 2020, with worrying implications for clean energy transitions and security.

The IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan sets out 30 actionable, ambitious policy recommendations and targeted investments. The Plan, developed in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, would boost global economic growth by 1.1% per year, save or create 9 million jobs per year, and avoid a rebound in emissions and put them in structural decline. Achieving these results would require global investment of USD 1 trillion annually over the next three years.

According to the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan, 35% of new jobs could be created through energy efficiency measures and another 25% in power systems, particularly in wind, solar and modernising and strengthening electricity grids. Participants at the IEA summit underlined the particular importance of energy efficiency, and expressed appreciation for the work of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency.

In the Summit’s High-Level Panel on Accelerating Clean Energy Technology Innovation, co-chaired by Norway’s Minister of Petroleum Tina Bru and Chile’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobbed participants commended the new Energy Technology Perspectives Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation, which shows the vital importance of innovation for meeting shared energy and climate goals, the IEA said. Participants drew upon the IEA’s five key innovation principles and discussed how to scale up critical emerging technologies like batteries; hydrogen; carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS); and bioenergy.

In the High-Level Panel on an Inclusive and Equitable Recovery, co-chaired by Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan of and Morocco’s Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development Minister Aziz Rabbah, participants discussed the need to put people at the centre of recovery plans, including the most vulnerable, in order to fully harness diverse talents, backgrounds and perspectives. According to the IEA, they underscored the need to protect workers in the short term and to develop skills necessary for the sustainable, resilient energy systems of the future. Participants reinforced the importance of having a clear understanding for how to advance inclusive growth and to track progress, and held up the Equal by 30 campaign to advance gender equality as a valuable model.

Also, in the the High-Level Panel on a Resilient and Sustainable Electricity Sector co-chaired by Commissioner Simson and Thailand’s Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, participants recognised how indispensable electricity has been for citizens across the world during the crisis. A number of participants emphasised the transition towards a climate-neutral economy, the IEA said, adding that they noted the crucial role of electricity in clean energy transitions, participants underscored the historic opportunity to modernise and improve the sustainability, reliability and security of electricity systems with a diverse generation mix and higher flexibility to integrate larger shares of variable renewables.



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OLAF finds MEPs broke EP rules by financing national party through their salaries



An OLAF investigation published on April 30 revealed that MEPs from two member-states breached the European Parliament’s rules by transferring part of their salaries to their national parties.

The investigation by Europe’s anti-fraud office also found that MEPs from one member state also increased the salaries of their assistants so that the latter could make additional contributions.

The first investigation that was launched in 2017 found that for the period between 2014 and 2019, MEPs and staff members of the parliament’s party delegation paid contributions of over €640,000 to the national headquarters. It was also found that the illegal move was not spontaneous, but part of an already agreed obligation, that was set out in a financial charter that the party had specifically approved for the delegation at the European Parliament. Such an arrangement is contrary to the EP rules.

OLAF concluded that sanctions should be put in place by the European Parliament for the illegal actions and for the recovery of due amounts established by the investigation.

The second investigation that was conducted a year later found that for the particular time period, the financial contributions made by MEPs exceeded €540,000, as each was requested to contribute €3,000-4,000 to the national delegation. OLAF’s investigative team also revealed that their assistants were classified as of higher grade and thus, with a higher salary, so that they are able to transfer part of their salary to the national party.

Although no evidence of MEPs coercing the assistants was found, the EP members knew this was happening and had arranged the assistants’ hierarchy upgrade.

OLAF issued recommendations to the European Parliament proposing disciplinary action to ensure that amounts transferred by the Parliamentary Assistants to the national party are recovered. The anti-fraud office also recommended that the assistants face disciplinary action for following the instructions of their party, even though these instructions put them in conflict with their statutory obligations to the European Parliament.

 

 



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The Day After (II): What Europe?



“The Day After” for the European Union, the so-called “bloc”, will either have to stay as is and sooner, rather later, dissolve. Or it will have to change in an attempt to survive. This will be difficult as huge organisations like the EU do not historically adapt, but disappear. And yet, the instinct for survival is very strong, and the bloc may radically adapt to the “new norm” because if it doesn’t, its servants will not lose a little, but all.

Maintaining the “status quo ante”

The bloc may stay as-is – an apolitical power structure, ruling half a billion people by a self-reproduced, non-accountable administrative machine, without any democratic legitimisation.

This is the same bloc from which the United Kingdom withdrew and is the EU which ordinary citizens left behind when they entered into house isolation last month. If this will be the bloc that re-surfaces once Europe’s residents are released, it will continue living in its own world, further distancing itself from its own citizens and soon will collapse.

After returning to society, ordinary people will be different. If the Brussels nomenklatura remains the same, it will face a problem, a big problem. Most people after the long home detention will be different. Most, at least for a while, will be better people because they would have spent time with themselves and their families and would have discovered that moderation is a virtue, while forced minimalism, once they are used to it, gives a different dimension to life.

As for the European Union, the inmates who spent day and night in front of a screen sensed that the EU had no political role in the crisis. The bloc has been judged by its citizens as having been “in absentia”.

Indeed, Viktor Orban dissolved the Hungarian Parliament in an unprecedented “coup d’état” and Brussels ignored it, displaying no political capacity to handle the situation.

Dad, is America far away? Shoot-up and swim…

Leaders emerge from confrontations, and the virus crisis is the world biggest confrontation since the Second World War. Whether it’s a confrontation between China and the Western World or between humankind and nature, makes no difference. In any instance, new leaders will emerge. This is typical after large events. Think of what great leaders Europe had after World War II and during the Cold War – Francoise Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Aldo Moro, Margaret Thatcher and many others who were followed by mediocracies in the years of peace.

The emergence of new leaders is now in the making. In this process, the bloc does not participate as the Brussels bureaucracy although it is the most sophisticated administrative machine of the world. It is politically sterile. It is composed of civil servants and only civil servants who, in the absence of political leaders, began making political decisions. That is what undermined the European project.

In the emerging post-crisis new world, the European Union is needed more than ever, ironically, for the same reasons it was established seven decades ago – to unite Europeans and contain Germany. At that time it was to guarantee that Berlin didn’t dominate Europe again with its Panzers, and today it’s to be sure Germany doesn’t attempt to dominate Europe again with its Deutsche Mark, which masquerades as the euro.

Maintaining and strengthening the European Union, turning it into a united nation that is citizen useful and friendly, is the only way to keep alive the best European achievement of all time.

This will be a difficult task. The European Commission, the presumed government of Europe, must attempt it. It is hard to do so as it must give up all privileges its employees have accumulated and turn them into ordinary civil servants.

Once the bloc’s civil servants realise that if the union disintegrates, their pensions will be paid (if they will be paid) by their own countries of origin and will be at the level of national pensions, they will certainly behave.

The change we need

There are some ideas about the changes the bloc needs to make in order to survive. The most important change is the “presumed government of Europe” must become “the government of Europe” and must become political.

Europe has serious survival problems to address, more than ever, and they are all political. They require political solutions that no administration can give no matter how good it is and how well it is paid. That is why the government of the bloc must become political, democratic, accountable, and at the service of citizens.

“The Day After” sequel of New Europe will provide food for thought to all those pretending they rule Europe from their couch but have a better sense than anybody else about the threats to their jobs and pensions when everything will return to the “new normal”.

In the next episodes, we will provide some ideas as to how the European Commission should change in an attempt to survive. How to make the bloc political; how to bring the Directors General down to earth at the service of the political personnel; how to restore accountability; how to reduce over-regulation; how to restore transparency especially in money matters; how to redefine the role of the cabinets and other unpleasant suggestions, yet essential for the survival of the Union, in the post virus era.

(to be continued)

Related Articles:

The Day After: a new Yalta in the making



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Ukraine to boost renewables, energy efficiency with EU help



Ukraine can focus in developing the country’s renewable energy sector and improve the much-delayed energy efficiency now that the former Soviet republic has concluded the gas transit agreement with Russia, the European Union’s energy chief said on 12 January.

“Meeting with Ukraine’s Minister of Energy Oleksiy Orzhel: after the conclusion of the gas transit agreement, Ukraine can focus on the future of energy and the development of renewable and energy efficiency” European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson wrote in a tweet, adding that the EU would support Ukraine’s efforts. Simson also said that the Commissioner is looking forward to the next high-level dialogue between the EU and Ukraine.

The former Soviet republic that is reliant on fossil fuels is planning to reduce CO2 emissions by developing a green energy transition and increasing energy efficiency, especially in industry and buildings.

Simson met Orzhel on the sidelines of the 10th session of the International renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly in Abu Dhabi at the United Arab Emirates. She also held a meeting with UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi on the EU Green Deal and the way to reach climate neutrality. “I am happy to see their active engagement and readiness to continue cooperation,” she said.



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