Monday

15th Aug 2022

Opinion

Big polluters should have no role in planning EU energy policy

  • Climate change will continue to accelerate, oblivious to the machinations and myopia of EU bubble policymakers whose tired tactics cannot seriously address the challenge of our times (Photo: Silje Bergum Kinsten)
Listen to article

Monday (27 June) sees the EU energy council, where ministers will — among other things — seek to reach agreement on two-energy-related proposals: the energy directive and the renewable energy directive.

Yet let's look at the background lobbying.

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

Energy company lobbyists made up the largest delegation at last November's UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, with more participants than any single country.

Meanwhile, according to the latest IPCC report, we are close to reaching an irreversible tipping point, putting billions of people at lethal risk.

Despite the gravity of these two startling realities, the European Parliament is not only still incapable of delivering a climate package (Fit for 55) that is aligned with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, it actually allowed the fossil fuels industry to hijack EU environmental policy.

Ursula von der Leyen, Frans Timmermans and Kadri Simson may be the faces of the EU's Green Deal, but Big Business is in the driving seat of its energy policy.

This is not an insinuation, it's a fact.

Recent research reveals that the European Commission has met with big polluters almost every working day since it assumed office in 2019. But there's more: Corporate Europe Observatory obtained documents that reveal that the heads of six big energy companies met EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and commissioner Kadri Simson to establish an industry Task Force and to determine which measures were "feasible" to tackle Europe's energy crisis.

This is like asking Marlboro for advice on fighting tobacco addiction; it just doesn't make sense.

Climate change won't sit down to negotiate with our elites; we won't be able to explain that "industry needs breathing space", as European People's Party MEP Christian Ehler likes to put it when it comes to explaining what some political groups dare to define as "climate pragmatism".

Climate change will continue to accelerate, oblivious to the machinations and myopia of EU bubble policymakers whose tired tactics cannot seriously address the challenge of our times.

While the European Parliament, in the shadow of a name as complex and incomprehensible as the "taxonomy", debates whether gas and nuclear can be considered "green and sustainable" investments, temperatures are hitting 49 degrees in southern Europe. Wildfires, which have now become a dismal summertime routine, are already ravaging forests.

The EU has already wasted too much time trying to find solutions that would "not disturb the single market". In this context, how can "saving the market" be our goal? The European Union has a chance to get off Russian gas by 2025 without replacing it with any other fossil fuel, yet it chooses the opposite path: creating even more dependency on gas.

To break Europe's addiction to Putin's gas, the commission and its member states are negotiating with authoritarians of the like of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Egypt and Naftali Bennet in Israel.

Has the EU really sunk this low on basic respect for human rights? In whose interest are these policies being pursued? Certainly not in the interest of the people living in Europe, who, at best, are condemned to paying stratospheric bills to cool their homes during one of the hottest summers recorded so far.

How is it possible to ignore that decades of privatisation and total disregard for fundamental human rights have brought us to the brink of catastrophe?

Nonetheless, the prevailing narrative is starting to crack thanks to the tireless efforts of activists, families and workers, and we're seeing the first results. Two weeks ago, two European parliamentary committees rejected the commission's greenwashing of the so-called taxonomy; now, parliament's plenary needs to confirm this vote at July's session.

'Tweaks and fiddling'

Another key moment came recently in Strasbourg when president von der Leyen acknowledged that the energy market "is not working" and that the commission has now taken on the task to reform it. With its Power to the People campaign, The Left has been consistently demanding a radical transformation of the EU energy model. We agree with von der Leyen: this is not a duty to be taken lightly.

Tweaks and fiddling with the current system won't cut it. The objective cannot be to safeguard Big Energy's obscene power and profit margins. We have to start by shielding vulnerable people, and this is why we call on European energy ministers meeting Monday to finally agree on a price cap to be financed by the outrageous windfall profits made by Big Energy companies.

Europe needs to completely redesign the sector by dropping its reliance on fossil fuels, investing in renewables while placing its energy model under public control. As a first operational tip, let's stop taking advice from polluting companies and open our meeting rooms and ears to the hundreds of thousands of communities, researchers and activists, who have been proposing sustainable solutions for us and our planet for decades.

Our cities are home to thousands of hearts and minds ready to take up the challenges of our times. It's easy for us to be bold: all we have to do is listen and act.

Author bio

Cornelia Ernst, Marisa Matias and Sira Rego are MEPs with The Left.

Disclaimer

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

Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy

Internal documents found EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and energy commissioner Kadri Simson coordinated their Russian gas cutting strategy with oil CEOs to determine which measures were "feasible".

EU gas lobby in celebration mode

Eurogas is a considerable fossil fuel lobby power in Brussels, with nine lobbyists that hold passes to the European Parliament, and a body that has secured over 50 meetings with EU Commission officials since 2014.

Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia

Two days before Vladimir Putin launched his illegal war on my home country Ukraine, Russian energy minister Nikolai Shulginov gave an interview addressing the European Commission's taxonomy on sustainable activities — saying he was pleased it kept gas as 'green'.

Column

Global hunger crisis requires more than just the Odessa deal

International donors are playing hide and seek. Instead of stepping up their assistance programmes, richer nations are cutting overseas aid, or reallocating funds from other parts of the world towards the Ukraine crisis.

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

News in Brief

  1. Zelensky vows to 'target' Russian soldiers at nuclear plant
  2. Putin vows greater cooperation with North Korea and Taliban
  3. Hungarian judge slams Orbán's rule-of-law attacks
  4. Borrell condemns 'despicable' Rushdie attack
  5. Slow wind-farm approvals risk green goals, warns industry
  6. Increase in people crossing Channel to UK in 2022
  7. Swedish government to toughen gang-crime penalties
  8. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  2. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  3. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  4. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  5. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  6. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  7. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  8. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us