The European Union is determined to turn Europe into the first climate neutral and carbon neutral continent by 2050 as announced by Ursula von der Leyden, the president of the European Commission, on December 11, 2019. It was at this time, that the EU Commission unveiled The European Green Deal. In a nutshell, The European Green Deal is a grand plan that covers all sectors of the economy and that sets forth climate and energy goals that each member country must meet. Not surprisingly, The European Green Deal focuses on renewable energy and overall energy efficiency with the target of forty percent of renewable energy for 2030. But how exactly is the EU going to try to achieve this “green” goal policy when all member states have different energy policy priorities?
Each member state of the EU was asked to present its own plans and strategies on how it was going to achieve the EU targets in an attempt to reduce the carbon emissions. While all states pledged to reduce their emissions by fifty-five percent by 2030, it appears that each country had a different idea not only on how to reduce their emissions but also on what green really means:
On one end of the spectrum is Germany and Austria. Austria refuses nuclear power and natural gas altogether. In fact, Austria has been an anti-nuclear country for decades. Germany is relatively fine with using natural gas, mainly due to its dependency on this source of energy, but it has plans to fully decommission its nuclear site facilities and would like the rest of Europe to follow suit.
On the other end of the spectrum is France. With its heavy reliance on nuclear energy, France has led the charge to propose a plan that includes nuclear power. Some central European states, such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, all of which currently rely heavily on nuclear power and natural gas for their electricity needs, have joined France’s efforts.
What exactly is the dispute over? Aren’t nuclear power and natural gas cleaner than coal, and therefore appropriate choices for reducing carbon emissions? Well, yes but natural gas is still not completely carbon neutral, and clearly natural gas is still a fossil fuel. Regarding nuclear energy, the waste from nuclear powerplants will stay radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Thus, one could deduce that while these two sources of energy are somewhat green to some, they are just not green enough to others.
After many years of negotiations between the twenty-seven member countries about the details of what specific sources of energy would be considered green, in December 2021, the news began to leak suggesting that the EU Commission was going to include nuclear power and natural gas as “green”; meaning those plans would be eligible for the EU funding. Initially, this was celebrated by several member states including France, and many Central and Eastern European Countries because natural gas and nuclear power are integral to their energy policies. Ultimately, on December 31, 2021, the EU Commission showed its true green colors and issued a statement that indeed included nuclear power and natural gas as green sources of energy. However, the plan also included several strict conditions that must be met in order to utilize these two sources of energy.
The EU announcement was met with international public outcry with strict opposition led by Germany and Austria, who accused the EU of “greenwashing.” Austria has gone as far as threating to sue the EU. However, the other side of the green spectrum was also displeased because even those who stood with France criticized the proposed revisions to requirements for new natural gas facilities as not going far enough in relaxing requirements.
Weary of looming in-fighting and threats of litigation among its members, the EU Commission scrapped its December shade of green plan, and announced that the EU member states have until the end of the month of January 2022, to propose revisions to the current plan. One could expect as many as 27 different shades of green that will ultimately need to be combined by the EU Commission through negotiations into a single comprehensive green plan that will be binding on each EU country. Just what shade of green the EU will be is yet to be seen. It is easily predictable that the final product will not be exactly what any EU member country wants, but the EU Commission will have to meld multiple amorphous, green-shaded ideas into a single, unified, coherent international policy. One can only hope that the states currently at odds will find a shade suitable for crafting an olive branch extended to their continental compatriots.
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