Thursday

30th Jun 2022

Opinion

Is Romania getting cold feet on EU Green Deal?

  • Romanian prime minister Ludovic Orban with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Orban described the Green Deal as a 'true religion' for the European Commission and 'any argument you bring into discussion is rejected from the start' (Photo: EU Commission)

As the EU plans its budget for 2021-2027 and pushes for the European Green Deal to become a reality, Romania's decision-makers are failing again to set higher ambitions and the parameters for an effective, successful energy transition.

It is easy to wonder if Romania's leaders take seriously the climate crisis and global efforts to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 Celsius.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The European Green Deal has been perceived as an obligation imposed by the EU on Romania, with the prime minister arguing that in Brussels the Green Deal is "a true religion".

But these sentiments are at odds with the fact that Romania was not among the dissenters opposing the 2050 climate-neutrality targets, nor did it object to the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

While Romanian statesmen repeatedly agree with the need for climate action, when the time comes to implement concrete measures, their vision is limited to the winds of public opinion – so they present the high targets as something imposed by the EU.

Policy makers are also betting on natural gas and nuclear energy as suitable fuel for the country's energy transition.

Relying on gas as a transitional fuel is wrong for many reasons, including its low return on investment and negative environmental impact.

In addition, the most recent version of the country's national energy and climate plan (NECP) includes 1.98 GW of installed coal capacity until 2030 (approx. 7.9 percent of the total energy mix).

This goes against the path adopted by a majority of EU member states to phase-out coal from their energy systems.

While other countries with much higher coal capacities have planned a phase-out by 2030, 2028, or even 2023, only Romania and six other EU countries do not yet have a plan in this regard.

Gas is not the solution

Developing more gas capacity is uneconomical for Romania, as external financial resources will be very soon limited.

With the EU's strategic goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, Romania would have to plan a second transition in 20 years, from natural gas to renewables: an extra, unnecessary step.

Starting in 2022, the European Investment Bank will no longer finance projects based on fossil fuels, including natural gas, while the regulatory proposals for the future European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund are set to exclude fossil fuels from receiving any financing.

Even though CO2 emissions are lower than those of coal, the threat of methane emission from gas capacities, a greenhouse gas with 23 times higher impact than carbon dioxide, must be accounted for.

In so doing, together with the high cost of production and initial investment for gas power plants, Romania should spend its money on energy-efficiency measures and in modernising the energy system for a better integration of renewable energy sources, a much cheaper and efficient transformation.

Policy makers need to plan coherently with climate-neutrality targets and translate EU regulations into effective policies. Until now, no clear action and legislation has been approved for decarbonisation.

Romania has numerous financing opportunities to benefit from, as long as the country commits energy and climate targets.

A recent report by Sandbag and CEE Bankwatch Network shows the huge potential and opportunities for a successful energy transition in Romania.

According to the last estimates in the NECP, the country needs €22.6bn in investments for the transformation of the energy system.

While this amount might seem unreachable, the next EU budget provisions at least 25 percent of the spending envelope for climate actions. In short, Romania could mobilise:

• Under Cohesion Policy at least €5.5bn, of which €3.1bn are allocated to the energy sector

• €757m under the Just Transition Fund, as Romania is third-highest recipient for the fund

• €10.11bn under the Just Transition Mechanism

• €18bn from EU–ETS, if Romania will begin auctioning revenues and repurpose them for energy transition

Other instruments such as the Connecting Europe Facility, InvestEU or LIFE+ programme could also be used to support Romania's clean energy transition.

Romania should use these sources to implement more effective projects and measures that will help the country achieve its climate and energy targets set for 2030 and 2050.

Until now, under the current financing period (2014-2020) Romania has an EU funds absorption rate of only 31 percent, and Cohesion Policy was not used to its full potential: only 7.8 percent of investments went into actual clean energy projects instead of the planned 20 percent.

Given that Romania already has a diverse energy mix with almost 50 percent renewables, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe and the technical potential of 86 GW from renewable energy - solar and wind, Romania's policy makers should see the Green Deal as an enabler of economic development, not as a setback.

Author bio

Laura Nazare is campaign coordinator on energy transition at Bankwatch Romania, an environmental organisation advocating for the use of public funds for energy transformation.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Roll out red carpet - or recycle it? Green Deal's EU blindspot

In Europe the rate of recycling carpet is shockingly low at 1-3 percent. Recyclers stay away from old carpets because they don't know which (potentially dangerous) chemicals they contain, or because they are very complex due to multiple materials used.

How a Croatian gas project exposes Green Deal hypocrisy

The EU Commission is pushing a wave of controversial gas infrastructure projects, in parallel to its much-touted Green Deal. One of those a flagship project of the Republic of Croatia, who currently chairs the EU presidency.

Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal

The moment Europe revels in its carbon-free transport system, most of the cars that emitted too much for EU standards will still be driving around for years somewhere else in the world.

Why Poland couldn't sign up to Green New Deal

We need to take into account the different state of economic and social development of each country, not to mention their varying energy systems. We cannot put a climate muzzle on economic growth.

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

Column

China's support for Russia challenges Europe's Peace Order

China's soft support to Russia is deeply troubling for Europe. Here is the EU's biggest trading partner signalling that it is on the side of Russia, its aggression, and its challenge to the post-war international order.

Sturgeon's 2023 'referendum' gamble for Scotland

The independence campaign launch featured a new Scottish government report, comparing the UK's economic and social record with those of other European states — and arguing, unsurprisingly, that Scotland should be independent as a result.

News in Brief

  1. New president for European Committee of the Regions
  2. Gas flows from Spain to Morocco, after Western Sahara row
  3. BioNTech, Pfizer test 'universal' coronavirus vaccine
  4. UK sanctions second-richest Russian businessman
  5. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms
  6. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies
  7. EU Commission told to improve CAP data analytics
  8. Scotland pushes for second independence vote in 2023

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. Nato expands and reinforces on Russian flank
  2. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  3. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  4. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  5. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto
  6. The euro — who's next?
  7. One rubicon after another
  8. Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us