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Sassoli: Local initiatives will ensure concrete results for Europe 

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Speech by the President of the European Parliament at the opening of the Covenant of Mayors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

"The European Parliament, the home of European democracy, has hosted the Covenant of Mayors ceremony for climate and energy for over ten years, welcoming mayors and local leaders to Brussels. Last year the event could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but today I am delighted to be able to meet. We see before our eyes the increasingly visible and dramatic signs of climate change, and the time has come for action. We are working on concrete legislative acts to implement the Green Deal. Therefore, this event could not be timelier.

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"Let me first congratulate you on the success of the Pact: over 10,000 cities have signed up, representing more than 325 million inhabitants from 53 countries. These are impressive figures. As you know, we share similar objectives: to accelerate decarbonisation, strengthen the ability to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, and allow citizens to access secure, sustainable and affordable energy.

"Energy poverty is a problem for all Europeans, in all Member States. As we approach winter, we are seeing a rise in energy prices, and citizens and businesses are understandably concerned. As with COVID-19, we need to join forces and provide a coordinated European response. Our exposure to volatility in global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong domestic renewable energy sector. We need to act on energy efficiency, which can really provide a breakthrough. Cities manage large portfolios of buildings, from schools to libraries to housing units. The energy transition represents an opportunity to improve access to better quality housing.

"The European Parliament is determined to work towards achieving a climate-neutral society by 2050, and is fully committed to transforming the Union into a healthier, more sustainable, fair, just and prosperous society.

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"The ecological transition will involve all EU policies and affect all regions of the EU in various ways. Therefore, only a holistic and inclusive approach to implementing the Green Deal will enable us to realise our ambitions. It is for this reason that the European Parliament is in favour of enhanced cooperation with European cities and regions in its work. It is crucial that EU institutions, MEPs, national governments and local politicians join forces to ensure that the energy and climate transition leaves no one behind and improves the quality of life for all European citizens, creating new opportunities and strengthening social cohesion.

"Last year, the European Commission launched a climate pact. The pact provides an opportunity to bring together national governments, local communities, civil society, schools, businesses and individuals to share information, create spaces to express innovative ideas, both collectively and individually, and build capacity to facilitate grassroots initiatives on climate change and environmental protection.

"The European Parliament is a staunch promoter of the work of the Covenant of Mayors. Your work and local initiatives, providing concrete results, will ensure that the EU and its Member States respect their international commitments and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Local and bottom-up initiatives are also key to encouraging behavioural change, ensuring a profound transformation of society.

"It will be necessary to mobilize substantial public and private investments, across all policies, to help the communities most affected by decarbonisation, while encouraging proactive projects and initiatives.

"European cities also have an important role to play in accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility. The European Parliament has called for a broader urban mobility plan in order to reduce traffic and improve liveability in cities, for example by supporting zero-emission public transport, as well as cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. European cities, with their practical experience and expertise, should be involved in the discussion on the implementation of future mobility policies at EU level.

"In addition, the development of green spaces in urban areas, rich in biodiversity, will be important to help tackle air pollution, noise, heat waves, floods and public health problems in European cities.

"The EU must continue to act as a leader in climate action and is called upon to play, through its diplomacy, a leading role in convincing other global players, such as China and India, to raise their ambitions at COP26 in Glasgow - transforming commitments into concrete policy measures. Time is of the essence and global action is crucial for the success in the fight against climate change. In this context, your role will be essential, both through the twinning programme and Pact offices outside of Europe. Cities need to be on the frontline of world leadership in the fight against climate change.

"I would like to assure you that the European Parliament, in defining the European Green Deal, will ensure that European cities are involved and able to do their part, not only as important allies, but also as active partners.

"Thank you."

Energy

EU measures to guarantee safe and green energy

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From heating to transport, energy is essential to everyday life, but also a major source of emissions. Read about EU solutions to decarbonize the sector, Economy.

Energy is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, accounting for more than three quarters. It covers electricity production, heating and transport - all essential to everyday life. In order to reach the EU’s ambitious target of climate neutrality by 2050, emissions need to be drastically cut in the energy sector.

In 2021 gas and electricity have hit record prices. The EU is highly dependent on energy imports, especially when it comes to natural gas (90%) and oil (97%), making them vulnerable to disruptions that can increase prices. Better cooperation and interconnections of energy networks with the development of renewable energy sources can help EU countries secure energy supplies.

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Read on to find out about the different proposals the EU is working on to reduce emissions from the energy sector and guarantee a safe supply.

Better connections between EU countries

Connecting energy infrastructure between EU countries can help to secure a diverse supply of energy and better mitigate possible disruptions.

The EU is currently revising rules on the funding of cross-border energy infrastructure projects in order to meet its climate goals. Every two years, a list of key infrastructure projects is selected. These projects can benefit from simplified permits and the right to apply for EU funding.

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Members of Parliament’s energy committee want to stop the EU from funding natural gas projects and instead direct money to hydrogen infrastructure and carbon capture and storage. The Parliament will negotiate the rules with the European Council.

Renewable hydrogen

When hydrogen is used as an energy source, it does not emit greenhouse gases, meaning it could help decarbonise sectors where it is hard to decrease CO2 emissions. It is estimated that hydrogen could supply 20-50% of the EU’s energy demand in transport and 5-20% in industry by 2050.

However, in order to be sustainable, hydrogen must be produced by renewable electricity. MEPs have insisted on the importance of a clear distinction between renewable and low-carbon hydrogen as well as on phasing out fossil-based hydrogen.

Offshore renewable energy

Currently, wind is the only offshore renewable energy source used on a commercial scale, but the EU is looking into other sources, such as tidal and wave power, floating solar energy and algae for biofuels.

The European Commission has proposed an EU strategy to dramatically increase the production of electricity from offshore renewable sources. Offshore wind capacity alone would grow from 12GW today to 300GW by 2050. Parliament will set out its position later.

More ambitious targets

Increasing the share of renewable energy and enhancing energy efficiency are both needed in order to decarbonize the energy sector. Under legislation aiming to deliver the Green Deal’s targets, the Commission has proposed to revise the targets for both renewable energy (currently 32% by 2030) and energy efficiency (32.5% by 2030).

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European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)

Coalition seeks EU ban on fossil fuel advertising

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An effort to outlaw greenwashing by fossil fuel companies across the European Union launched today, with more than 20 organizations representing millions of Europeans launching a European Citizens’ Initiative to “Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising and Sponsorships”.

The campaign seeks to cement such a ban into European Union legislation [1]. Achieving this, according to the Europe Beyond Coal coalition, would cut off a vital channel that coal barons and other fossil companies use to promote their inadequate efforts on climate action, while a vast majority of their investments still go into fossil fuels.

“Finland’s Fortum pretends it’s green despite opening a new coal plant in Germany last year; RWE shouts about its renewable energy business while destroying German villages like Lützerath to mine coal it cannot burn; and Poland’s state-owned PGE is illegally expanding coal mining in Turów, while targeting Brussels politicians with ads showing fake citizens promoting coal,” said Kathrin Gutmann, Europe Beyond Coal campaign director.

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“While coal will be gone in Europe by 2030, these companies are more than willing to waste huge sums of money trying to stop the unstoppable, rather than plan for it and finance a fair energy transition. It is communities, workers and all of us everyday people that end up paying the price for their propaganda.”

Over 60 percent of advertisements from fossil fuel companies are ‘greenwashing’ according to new research [2], that could for instance be used to polish their public profiles, deny their responsibility for the climate crisis, promote false solutions like coal to gas replacements, and delay the phase-out of their fossil businesses.

“The companies most responsible for climate breakdown buy ads and sponsorship to present themselves as the solution to the crisis they created, and to influence politicians,” said Silvia Pastorelli, Greenpeace EU climate and energy campaigner. “Like the tobacco industry, fossil fuel polluters first denied the science and then tried to delay action. A ban on their advertising is a logical step to bring public debate and policy in line with science.”

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More information about the European Citizens’ Initiative, “Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising and Sponsorships”, is available here.

  1. A European Citizens’ Initiative (or ECI) is a petition that is officially recognised by the European Commission, and pre-approved by them. If an ECI reaches one million verified signatures in the timeframe allowed, then the European Commission is legally obliged to respond, and may consider incorporating the demand into European law.
  2. Bans on fossil fuel advertising do have precedent in the EU. In December 2020, the City of Amsterdam banned fossil fuel advertisements from its metro and the city centre. The French ‘climate and resilience’ bill, published in 2021, also includes some first steps towards a ban of fossil fuel advertisement. On 18 October, Stockholm city council will debate a proposed ban on fossil fuel advertising in the city.
  3. Participating organisations to this ECI include: ActionAid, Adfree Cities, Air Clim, Avaaz, Badvertising, BoMiasto.pl, Ecologistas en Acción, Europe Beyond Coal, FOCSIV, Food and Water Action Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, Fundación Renovables, Global Witness, Greenpeace, New Weather Institute Sweden, Plataforma por un Nuevo Modelo Energético, Reclame Fossielvrij, Social Tipping Point Coalitie, Stop Funding Heat, Transport & Environment, and Zero.
  4. Research by environmental news outlet DeSmog  on behalf of Greenpeace Netherlands found that out of over 3,000 Shell, Total Energies, Preem, Eni, Repsol and Fortum adverts published on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube since the launch of the European Green Deal, from December 2019 to April 2021, only 16 percent were explicitly for fossil fuel products, despite the fact that this is the majority business of all six companies.
  5. This spring, PGE launched a PR campaign in Brussels, calling for a “Green Deal, not a Grim Deal,” featuring a stock photo of a child.
  6. One local resident spoke out about the faked campaign, and the real impact of Turow on his community.
  7. Less than a week after Germany's 'climate election', people from the village of Lützerath in Western Germany staged a sit-in to defend their homes from destruction by coal company RWE last Friday (1 October). The expansion of the mine would cause Germany to fail on its Paris Agreement commitments. Greta Thunberg and German climate activist Luisa Neubauer visited Lützerath the day before the election, ramming a sign into the ground in front of the village that read: "Defend Lützerath, defend 1.5". Images here.
  8. Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner.

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Energy

'The green transition is not the problem, but the solution' Donohoe

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Following today’s (4 October) Eurogroup, Irish Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe said that ministers had discussed the hike in energy prices and their impact on people and businesses. 

Donohoe invited Christian Zinglersen, director of the European Union Agency for Co-operation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to make a presentation on recent developments and make an assessment outlining prospects for the market. The discussions focused on inflationary pressures and ministers agreed with the ECB assessment that the situation was likely to be temporary.

Ministers were adamant that the situation did not undermine ambitious climate objectives. Donohoe said: “The green transition is not the problem. It is part of the solution.” He added that the situation meant that we should maintain and speed up efforts to improve energy efficiency.

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Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni pointed to high demand on gas globally, especially from Asia, the need to fix infrastructure that hadn’t taken place because of the pandemic and, to a lesser extent, the increase in the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) price, which he hastened to add only accounted for around 20% of the price rise.   

Spain and France call for European approach to managing the gas market

Ahead of the meeting, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno le Maire, the Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calviño called for more concerted European action and a European approach to managing the market. 

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In response the Commission will propose a toolbox of policy measures that can be deployed to mitigate the impact of the additional cost, the Commission will also launch a reflection on how to better secure energy supply for EU citizens and businesses in the medium term, with a view to shaping energy legislation proposed for December. 

Gentiloni said any measures would need to be temporary, targeted, respectful of state aid rules and consistent with the transition to a decarbonized economy, which he added was the structural response to volatility and dependency on fossil fuels.

The hike in prices has been particularly sensitive in Spain where it has become a sensitive political question, with the government imposing a large windfall tax on energy providers.

Le Maire said: “It is time to have a look at the European energy market. The European energy market has one key advantage, it secures the supply of energy everywhere in Europe, in all countries, at all times. This is clearly one of the key advantages of the European energy markets, but it also has one major downside, which is the alignment of electricity prices on the gas price. This is totally inefficient and we can no longer accept to have the electricity prices aligned to the gas price.”

Two solutions were put forward by the ministers. Firstly, to improve the regulation of gas stocks. The second one is to have a direct link between the average cost of production of electricity in every country, and to the price paid by the consumer. Gentiloni acknowledges that measures are needed, but that a balance has to be found that isn’t contrary to climate objectives. 

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