15th Aug 2022


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)
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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

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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.


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

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