BREAKING NEWS

Now Reading:

Climate change's devastating effects on Europe's nature, health and economy


insiders

Climate change's devastating effects on Europe's nature, health and economy

Global warming is expected to continue with its share of devastating weather patterns: heavy rainfalls, floods, extreme droughts and lasting effects on nature, the economy and people’s health.

Scientists agree that global warming is mostly human-induced and primarily due to the fossil fuels we burn, which in turn release greenhouse gases.

Climate skeptics, among them US President-elect Donald Trump, often argue that the earth has cooled and warmed throughout its long history, that is true, however in the past century alone, global temperature increased by 0.7 degrees. Now scientists predict it will soar by another 2 to 6 degrees by the end of the 21st century.

What are we doing in Europe to cool things off? Well the EU has ratified the Paris agreement, which aims to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2° Celsius, which is unlikely to happen.

The EU says it is however well on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But how about the rest of Europe?

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s choking coal industry

Insiders reporter Valerie Gauriat traveled to Bosnia where coal-fired power plants are choking locals, sometimes to the point of death. Twelve such plants are active in the Balkans and 17 others could be built by 2030. As a candidate to EU membership Bosnia will have to adopt legally binding emission reduction targets.

On all Saints day, people had come from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even from abroad, to honour their loved ones at the cemetery in Divkovici village.

That is where the Euronews Insiders team met Goran Stojak, who recently lost his father to lung cancer.

In the last four months, six people from Divkovici have died of the same condition. They are the latest on a long list of deaths from lung cancer in the area.

The finger of suspicion points towards the Tuzla power plant. Waste from its coal combustion is discharged just outside the village.

Goran Stojak has been fighting to save locals from the plant’s pollution for years.

“The power plant is there, and the waste comes through the pipeline,” Stojak explained to Euronews.

“And this water gradually seeps into the ground, it spreads on the banks, on both sides of the lake. And it gets into the wells from where people get their drinking water.”


Once filtered and mixed with water, the waste is piped to large landfills on the village outskirts.

Tests carried out by an independent laboratory have shown high concentrations of heavy metal residues lying deep underground.

“It looks like fairly rich, fertile soil. But it’s actually waste residues from the coal plant.” says our reporter on the field, Valerie Gauriat. “And in there, you can find things such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic , chromium. All this has contaminated the land around the village, as well as the water.”


In dry weather, the wind blows particles of toxic soot to peoples’ homes.

Most villagers are affected by asthma, bronchitis and even more serious lung diseases.

“Last night, I had to take my wife and our seven-month-old baby to hospital for lung obstruction problems,” Stojak said.

“Lying in bed at night I often hear my neighbour crying out from the pain of lung cancer, he continued. “People living here are doomed. This village will be a ghost town in a few years. There’ll be nobody left.”

Goran heads up a neighbourhood community and constantly tries to get local authorities to do something about the plant’s pollution.

He says nothing has been done for the 70 people who still live in the village, such as Mila, who lives off a meager pension, and until recently, from food grown in her garden.

“They used to weigh up to three kilos,” she told Euronews,, showing a finger-size beet grown in her garden for the cows.

Laboratory test results scare Mila, but she says it is not easy to give up on her home-grown produce.

“We have no choice,” she said. “We have small pensions, we have to live off something.. We have no money to buy things outside. My son is unemployed. I have to grow what we eat. “

Euronews reporter Valerie Gauriat said It was impossible to get into the Tuzla power plant. Repeated requests to the electricity company managing the plant “got lost in the chimney fumes,” she said.


Coal – the most harmful fossil fuel

Heavy metals, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particles, make coal the most harmful of fossil fuels.

Along with air pollution from cars and domestic coal burning, the plant puts Tuzla high on the list of Europe’s most polluted cities.

The Centre for Ecology and Energy has complained about the Tuzla power plant’s expansion projects. Its director Dzemila Agic says it’s better to invest in energy efficiency.

“We found out that by implementing simple measures, we can reduce the consumption of thermal energy by 42 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent. Things like thermally insulating buildings,” Agic told Euronews.


Plans for more coal sites

There are four coal plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina and plans to build a further seven coal sites.

NGOs say that could generate an 18 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions) – from the level seen in 1990 – by 2030.

In the absence of a national energy programme, building new coal facilities at the moment doesn’t depend on the State’s decision, but on the country’s entities own individual plans: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.

Valérie Gauriat spoke with Admir Softic, vice-minister for energy at the foreign trade ministry in Sarajevo.

“Would you agree that in order to comply with reduction of emissions commitments, all these plans would have to be cancelled?” she asks.
“This is a political issue that the governments of both entities which make up Bosnia and Herzegovina will handle,” says Softic
“On the other hand, the state is determined to meet its commitments towards the Energy Community and the European Union. We are determined to achieve the target of 40 percent for renewable energy by 2020,” he added.


In Republika Srpska, the Ugljevik coal power plant also plans a new unit.

Management opened the plant’s door to Euronews; but did not comment on the expansion project, which has also attracted complaints from environmental organisations.

What they did want to speak about, was its plans to modernise the existing plant over the next three years.

“Once we have completed the construction of a desulfurization unit, we will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 80 times, at 200 mg per cubic meter, which represents the most rigorous European standards,” the plant’s project manager Zlatko Malovic told Euronews. “On the other hand, we will also reduce by 8 times the emissions of particulate matter from the chimney by installing new electro filters.”


Nobody here disputed the health and environmental impact of the plant; but workers insist it’s a crucial source of employment for the whole region.

Radivoje Radic has worked at the Ugljevik power plant for 20 years. He told Euronews that until clean energy is developed, locals can not do without the coal industry to find jobs.

“Despite the health risks, we are forced to produce electricity in this way,” Radic said. “Otherwise our youth would leave for other cities, other states, other continents in order to find jobs.

“And if there were no more young people living here, then what would be the point in keeping this plant open?”


Meanwhile England’s wine industry is booming, thanks to climate change.

Mark Driver, who owns Rathfinny Wine Estate, used to manage a multi-billion-pound hedge fund. He left the City of London in 2009 to invest his money in wine.

He has spent ten million pounds so far building up a complete new wine estate in the southeast of England.

“Two-thousand years ago the Romans were here, just two kilometres from here they had a large roman villa which would have had vines,” Driver told Euronews. “Then, in the middle-ages the cold period came and we became beer-drinkers. Vines started to be planted again in England in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Really with the benefit of climate change we are now seeing a lot more vineyards being planted in England.”


Champagne vs English sparkling wine

Driver’s chances are of success are high: Rathfinny lies on the same band of chalk as France’s Champagne region.

And as Andrew Jefford pointed out in this Decanter article: “There are extensive untapped acreages waiting for planting; propitious UK farmland changes hands at much lower prices than do classified Champagne vineyards.”

“Thirty years from now I think England will be one of the world’s leading wine makers selling 50m bottles worldwide,” Hambledon’s managing director Ian Kellett told FT in this piece, “but it needs billions, not tens of millions, of pounds of investment,” he added.

Mark Driver bought his machines in France. After quitting his previous job to follow his vineyard dream, he spent two years studying wine-making.

He hopes to break even in 2019.

“We have got weather records which go back over 100 years: and when you look at the weather records you can see that over the last 25 or 30 years we’ve seen a gradual increase of average annual temperatures,” Driver explained to Euronews. “You have a much greater ability to ripen your grapes to the right levels, to get the right level of sugar, the right acidity, the right balance of grapes to make really spectacular sparkling wine.”


The Insiders team travelled northeastwards, to the village of Earsham where we met Hannah and Ben Witchell, who spent two years in France’s Beaujoulais region learning about wine making.

Before that, they traversed the world of vineyards, picking grapes in California and Greece, and around the world from Argentina and Chile, to South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia…

Insiders: Climate change in the UK

Euronews asked Ben how to choose the best location for a vineyard.

“You have to have quite a low altitude site, ideally close to the coast, to improve the frost risk,” Witchell told Euronews. “Although the ripeness and the sugar levels are not quite as high as in some of the hotter climates we can have a lot more of the flavour profile in the grape developing, so the phenolics and the acidity and all the different aroma compounds can develop and make a product that is really aromatic and quite tasty.”

Ben and Hannah gave up their careers in IT and the travel industry.

They used their savings and a grant from the European Union to buy more than 12,000 vines in Germany. Planting them and bringing in new machinery added up to 300,000 pounds.


Alistair Nesbitt, a climate expert from the University of East Anglia, researches how climate change impacts wine growing in Britain.

“What we have seen over the last 10 to 15 years is an increase in vineyards, in particular in the south-east of England,” Nesbitt told Euronews, “…and what is likely to happen in the next ten years or so is a spread of viticulture into different areas into traditional arable areas such as parts of East Anglia up here.”

Alistair travels around the country supporting pioneers such as Ben with his scientific input. The researcher collects data on temperature, wind and moisture…

He explains that the information helps both the winegrower and global climate science.

“Climate change [is] for real,” Nesbitt told Euronews, “We are seeing the difference in vineyards now, we can see from the data going back over 60 years: temperature increasing… generally a range which during the vine growing season has been going up over one degree. That might not sound like much but it is very significant when we are talking about the ability to grow vines… or not grow vines.”


Sophie Claudet, Euronews Insiders:
“The US is one of the top CO² emitters. We know that US President-elect Donald Trump wants out of the Paris agreement. If he were to have his way, what signal would that send to China and India, other top CO² emitters in the world.”

Nick Mabey:
“I assume that Donald Trump will try and leave the Paris agreement, that will take him four years because of the structure of the agreement. He could try and move faster but I think he would find that very difficult to get through Congress.

Nick Mabey:
“I’ve talked to the Chinese, I’ve talked to people in India, and I think the world has changed since George W Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. China and India know they need a stable climate in order to meet their own development goals, to protect their own people. And although it will slow down political momentum, those countries see it’s in their own interest to move forward.

Nick Mabey:
“The real issue is whether the American lack of action will slow down the pace of action globally so much that we cross some critical tipping points in the climate which [would] make things a lot worse, irreversibly.”


Sophie Claudet:
“Climate change is not only happening in far away lands, it is also happening right here in Europe. How does it manifest itself?”

Nick Mabey, British climate expert:
“There are four main ways it’s hitting us: firstly, increased flooding in the north of Europe, such as we saw in the Danube a few years ago. Extreme weather everywhere, the kind of storms that hit Genoa and the south of France last year.

“But perhaps the hardest are the increased droughts in southern Europe. The Mediterranean is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, and this affects both the southern European countries, but also of course, countries on the other side of the Mediterranean causing instability, social tensions and migration.


Sophie Claudet:
“Are we doing enough in the EU to slow down global warming?”

Nick Mabey:
“The EU is doing a lot. We are the best in the world at being efficient, at using renewable energy and having clean cars. But unfortunately the science of climate change keeps on pushing [moving] the goalposts, and to actually keep safe we have to do more.

“So Europe, in order to keep up with the latest targets we just agreed in Paris, is going to have to increase its targets both by 2020 and 2030. The good news is if we do that we will actually save money, because the cost of cutting emissions has dropped so radically.”


Sophie Claudet:
“Why are we in Europe still so reliant on coal?”

Nick Mabey:
“The real problem with coal in Europe is in Poland and Germany. The coal plants they have are not economic but they create lots of jobs and political support for the parties who are in power.

Nick Mabey:
“So the big issue we’ve got to deal with in Europe [in many ways], is finding a way for those workers who depend on coal and coal power stations for a livelihood to have a just transition to a new future. And that’s something the unions involved and lots of organisations like my own are working on at the moment.”


Live updates from our Insiders team

      Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

      Next Article

      insiders

      Donald Trump will find it 'very difficult' to back out of Paris climate change Agreement