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EU goals for COP21 'very ambitious, to save the planet'


interview

EU goals for COP21 'very ambitious, to save the planet'

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Our Spanish Brussels correspondent talked to Europe’s top energy and climate official about Europe’s defence of humanity’y future.

Marta Vivas Chamorro, euronews: “The European Commission this year refined its Energy Union strategy to free up the transportation of energy in EU countries and to reduce dependence on imports. The UN Climate Summit in Paris is of key importance this year. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, what are your expectations for this summit?”

Miguel Arias Cañete: “I hope to be able to come to a strong agreement, a binding protocol which permits us to resolve one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, which is to curb global warming, the rise in temperatures, in such a way that the average increase does not exceed two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Because if we do nothing, if we continue to emit at the level we are emitting now, we will be confronted by increases that average 3.8 or 4.7 degrees, and that could be devastating for ecosystems and biodiversity, and worsen weather phenomena exponentially, along with disasters in every part of the world.”

euronews: “According to the World Meteorological Organisation, 2014 was the hottest year on record. How will Europe approach the major polluters to convince them to reduce emissions effectively?”

Cañete: “First, we’ll need leadership among ourselves, therefore the EU has defined very ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases, of 40%. In addition, the EU will change the way energy is produced, with the goal of 27% of energy coming from renewable sources in 2030, as well as raising our energy efficiency by 27-30%, so that we can consume less energy, produce cleaner energy and reduce emissions in every sector.”

euronews: “Will this come with a calendar and control mechanisms?”

Cañete: “We have to put a mechanism in place whereby every five years we take stock of where we are, to be able to say, for example, we’re going to make a supplementary effort, so that by the end of the century we achieve total decarbonisation, we’re going to limit our emissions to zero, and be able to say, ‘we have saved the planet.’”

euronews: “Do you think you’ll manage to increase the Green Climate Fund to help the poorest countries fight climate change?”

Cañete: “The European Union contributes the most to the Green Fund, 4.7 billion dollars. We are the biggest contributor right now. We need other countries who made the commitment to put their money on the table for the Green Fund. As of 2021, however, we should broaden the base of donor countries, since in the past they were referred to as developed countries, but the world has changed since 1992, and countries such as China at the time did not have the financial capacity. Today it does. China and numerous other developing countries now have emerging economies and the financial capacity to support efforts aimed at reducing emissions, and to help the poorest countries to adapt to climate change.”

euronews: “How is the reduction of emissions evolving in the EU?”

Cañete: “Our economy these last few years has grown by 46% and our emission reduction has been 23%, meaning we’re growing but also reduced our emissions. This is why we are aiming for a bigger commitment, from 20% to 40% at least in 2030.”

euronews: “This 40% figure, according to employers, is excessive, while ecologist organisations say it’s not enough. Will that figure change?”

Cañete: “We’ve been saying that the minimum will by 40%, varying according to others’ efforts. But obviously, when we make a proposal that not everyone is satisfied with, we have to make a balanced proposal. The ecologists want a more ambitious goal and sometimes companies want less, because they say the technology to achieve it is costly. The Commission has made a balanced proposal, after substantial effort, and we believe the goal can be attained by 2030.”

euronews: “Speaking of emissions, what can you tell us about Volkswagen? How is the Commission’s inquiry coming along?”

Cañete:“What the Commission is doing is, first of all, compiling all the data, to know what really happened, why the national approval mechanisms failed. In the case of NOx, the problem is the manipulation of elements, which allows the alteration of the emission readings. In the case of CO2, which is different, we also want all the information, to see what the heightened impact of CO2 emissions is in Volkswagen cars.”

euronews: “Have EU members and Volkswagen answered your letters?”

Cañete: “Some have answered us. We’re collecting information. I wrote personally to Volkswagen. The initial time we allowed was ten days, but they asked for a bit more. We told them we want a response by the end of the year. They have to tell us exactly what the impact of higher CO2 emissions in their cars is, because if it’s more than the levels set then the Commission has to impose sanctions.”

euronews: “You’ve talked about the Commission’s 27% quota for renewable energy by 2030. How to accomplish that goal without imposing obligations on the member states?”

Cañete: “With our system of governance, in a given European semester, within the framework of the energy union, the Commission draws up a report analysing each country’s situation, and as a result we have a community objective which we all must achieve. What the Commission does is analyse the existing problems, make recommendations and create legal tools to harmonise renewables at the European level, and facilitate their development. Next year there will be a major legislative change, including giving renewable development a boost.”

euronews: “What is the Commission doing to reduce dependence on Russian gas?”

Cañete: “The Commission considers the security of energy supply routes an absolute priority, and therefore we want to diversify. We want pipelines coming from all directions, and not to concentrate solely on gas pipelines limited to a single geographic situation. As a consequence, what we are doing now, through declaring projects of a community interest and financing to facilitate connecting Europe, which is to say the Connecting Europe Facility, is to support projects with interconnections with the electricity sector and the gas sector, such as the Southern Gas Corridor linking Italy with Azerbaijan, and we can have access to Azerbaijan’s gas. But we also want to promote our relations at a high level with Algeria, and build a link across the Iberian peninsula with the Midcat pipeline, to improve the flow of gas from south of the Mediterranean to continental Europe.”

euronews: “Why are there so many differences between electricity bills from country to country? Can the single market reduce them?”

Cañete: “Because we have a lot of regulated prices and because the bills in the different member states are subject to different taxes and costs which differ according to the electricity grid. In other cases costs are incurred by closing nuclear power stations, and so on. The Commission wants two things: to build infrastructure to allow energy to move around; and to get rid of all the differences present in bills, so that the bill only represents the costs of production, transportation and distribution. That way, we can have a more harmonious European system. All that is a slow process. Harmonisation has to start by region for us to end up as a single market, since at the moment we have 28 fragmented energy markets, and we can’t say that we have one single energy market.”

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