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Commission approves €30 billion Dutch scheme to support projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a €30 billion Dutch scheme to support projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands. The scheme (Stimulering Duurzame Energieproductie, SDE++) will contribute to the EU environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The €30 billion Dutch SDE++ scheme will support projects that will lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse emissions, in line with the objectives of the Green Deal. It will provide important support to environmentally-friendly projects, including renewable energy, use of waste heat, hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage, in line with EU rules. Importantly, the wide eligibility criteria and the selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will enable the most cost effective projects to be supported, reducing costs for taxpayers and minimising possible distortions of competition.”

The Netherlands notified the Commission of their plans to introduce a new scheme, the SDE++ to support a range of projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands. The SDE++, with an estimated total budget of around €30 billion, will run until 2025.

The scheme will be open to projects based on renewable electricity, gas and heat, the use of industrial waste heat and heat pumps, the electrification of industrial heat processes and electrification of hydrogen production, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) for industrial processes, including hydrogen production and waste incineration.

Beneficiaries will be selected, the support level set, and the aid allocated, through competitive bidding processes. The beneficiaries will receive support via a variable premium contract of the duration of up to 15 years. The payments beneficiaries receive will be adjusted based on the evolution of the relevant market price (for example, electricity, gas, carbon) over the lifetime of the support contract.

With respect specifically to electrification projects, that only demand low carbon electricity and do not increase demand for electricity from fossil fuels, the scheme ensures that these projects will only be supported for a limited number of running hours each year based on the number of hours in which the electricity supply in the Netherlands is expected to be met completely from low carbon sources. This will ensure that the support effectively leads to carbon emission reductions.

The Netherlands has also developed a detailed plan for the independent economic evaluation of the SDE++ covering in particular the way in which the competitive bidding process works and the efficiency of the scheme in achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The results of the evaluation will be published.

The Commission assessed the scheme under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the aid is necessary and has an incentive effect, as carbon prices do not fully internalise the costs of pollution and therefore the projects would not take place in the absence of the public support. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as the level of aid will be set through competitive auctions. Finally, the Commission found that the positive effects of the measure, in particular the positive environmental effects, outweigh the negative effects of the measure in terms of distortions to competition, given the broad eligibility criteria and the existence of a competitive bidding process.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the SDE++ is in line with EU state aid rules, as it supports projects which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition.

Background

The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow member states to support projects like those supported under the SDE ++, subject to certain conditions. These rules aim to help Member States meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.

The Renewable Energy Directive established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030.

The Commission's New Industrial Strategy for Europe and more recently the EU Hydrogen Strategy, identify the importance of renewable and low carbon hydrogen as part of the Green Deal.

The non-confidential version of the decisions will be made available under the case numbers SA.53525 in the state aid register on the Commission's Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

Climate change

President von der Leyen delivers speech at the One Planet Summit

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During the 'One Planet' summit which was held on 11 January in Paris, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) delivered a speech on sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and the fight against climate change, stressing that these are different sides of the same coin. To illustrate the EU's support for global co-operation and local action, it pledged to support and sponsor the Africa-led Great Green Wall flagship initiative which aims to tackle the land degradation and desertification, building on the EU's long-standing investment in this initiative.

She also announced that EU research and innovation on health and biodiversity will be a priority as part of a global co-operative and coordination effort. With the Green Deal for Europe, the EU is at the forefront of international action in favour of climate and biodiversity. President von der Leyen highlighted the role of nature and sustainable agriculture in achieving the goal of the Green Deal for Europe, which is to make Europe the first climate neutral continent of by 2050.

Last May, the Commission published the Biodiversity and Farm-to-Table strategies, which set out the EU's ambitious actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and in the world, to transform European agriculture into sustainable and organic agriculture and to support farmers in this transition. The “One Planet” summit, co-organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, began with a commitment by leaders in favor of biodiversity, which President von der Leyen has already supported during the session of the United Nations General Assembly last September. The summit sought to build momentum for COP15 on biodiversity and COP26 on climate this year.

Follow the speech by videoconference on EbS.

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Climate change

Research shows public not concerned over climate crisis

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New research in Europe and the United States shows that large portions of the public still do not accept the urgency of the climate crisis, and only a minority believe it will impact them and their families severely over the next fifteen years.
The survey, which was commissioned by d|part and the Open Society European Policy Institute, forms part of a major new study of climate awareness. It charts attitudes on the existence, causes, and impacts of climate change in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, the UK and the US. It also examines public attitudes to a series of policies that the EU and national governments could harness to reduce the damage inflicted by human-made emissions.
The report finds that, though a clear majority of European and American respondents are aware that the climate is warming, and that it is likely to have negative impacts for humankind, there is a distorted public understanding of the scientific consensus in both Europe and America. This, the report argues, has created a gap between public awareness and climate science, leaving the public underestimating the urgency of the crisis, and failing to appreciate the scale of the action required. 
All but a small minority accept that human activities have a role in climate change – with no more than 10% refusing to believe this in any country surveyed.  
However, while outright denial is rare, there is widespread confusion about the extent of human responsibility.   Large minorities – ranging from 17% to 44% across the surveyed countries – still believe that climate change is caused equally by humans and natural processes. This matters because those who do accept that climate change is the result of human action are twice as likely to believe it will cause negative consequences in their own lives.
 
Significant minorities believe scientists are equally divided on the causes of global warming – including two thirds of voters in Czech Republic (67%) and nearly half in UK (46%).  In reality, 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that humans have caused recent global warming.
 
A large majority of Europeans and US citizens in all nine countries polled agree that climate change requires a collective response, whether to mitigate climate change or adapt to its challenges.  Majorities in Spain (80%) Italy (73%), Poland (64%), France (60%), the UK (58%) and the US (57%) agree with the statement that “we should do everything we can to stop climate change.”
The report also finds that there is polarisation along party political lines on climate change – in Europe as well as the US.  Those on the left tend to be more aware of the existence, causes and impact of climate change, and more in favour of action, than people on the right. These differences are more important than demographic variation in most countries. For example, in the US, those who identify as left in their political orientation are nearly three times as likely to expect a negative impact on their own lives (49%) compared to those who identify as more on the right (17%). Polarisation is also marked in Sweden, France, Italy and the UK. The only country where there is balance across the spectrum is the Czech Republic.
 
Majorities are willing to act on climate change, but the actions they favour tend to be consumer-focused rather than efforts to create collective social change.  A majority of respondents in every country say they have already cut their plastic consumption (62%), their air travel (61%) or their car travel (55%).  A majority also says they either already have or are planning to reduce their meat consumption, switch to a green energy supplier, vote for party because of their climate change programme, or buy more organic and locally produced food.
 
However, people are much less likely to support civil society engagement directly, with only small minorities having donated to an environmental organization (15% across the survey), joined an environmental organization, (8% across the survey), or joined an environmental protest (9% across the survey). Only a quarter (25%) of respondents across the survey say they have voted for a political party because of their climate change policies.
Just 47 per cent of those surveyed believe they, as individuals, have very high responsibility for tackling climate change. Only in the UK (66%), Germany (55%), the US (53%), Sweden, (52%), and Spain (50%) is there a majority who feel a high sense of responsibility themselves.   In every country surveyed people are more likely to think that their national Government has a high responsibility for tackling climate change.   This ranges from 77% of those surveyed in Germany and the UK to 69% in the US, 69% in Sweden and 73% in Spain.  In every EU country, respondents were slightly more likely to see the EU as having a high responsibility for reducing climate change than national Governments. 
 
The polling also finds that people prefer to be offered incentives to act on climate change rather than face bans or carbon taxes.  A small majority are willing to pay some more tax for greater action on climate change - apart from in France, Italy and the Czech Republic – but the percentage willing to pay more than a small amount (one hour’s wage per month) is limited to at most a quarter – in Spain and the US.  Increasing taxes on all flights, or introducing a levy for frequent flyers, garnered some support across the polled countries (between 18 per cent and 36 per cent, collectively). Although the preferred policy for tackling air travel emissions, by a clear margin, was improving ground infrastructure for buses and trains.
Heather Grabbe, director of Open Society European Policy Institute, said “Many citizens across Europe and US still don’t realize that scientific consensus on human responsibility for climate change is overwhelming. Though outright denialism is rare, there is a widespread false belief, promoted by vested interests opposed to emissions reductions, that scientists are split on whether humans are causing climate change – when in fact 97% of scientists know that.
 
"This soft denialism matters because it lulls the public into thinking that climate change won’t affect their lives much over the next decades, and they don’t realise how radically we need to change our economic system and habits to prevent ecological collapse. Our polling shows that the more convinced people are that climate change is the result of human activity, the more accurately they estimate its impact and the more they want action.”
Jan Eichhorn, research director of d|part and lead author of the study, said: "The public in Europe and the US want to see action in response to climate change across all demographics. Politicians need to show leadership in responding to this desire in an ambitious way that enhances people's understanding of the severity of the crisis and the impact humans have - as this understanding is not developed enough so far. Relying on individual action is not enough. People see the state and international organizations at the EU in charge. People are principally open to being convinced to support more extensive action, but to achieve this urgently requires further work from political and civil society actors."
 
FINDINGS:
  • A sizeable majority of Europeans and Americans believe that climate change is happening. In all nine countries surveyed, an overwhelming majority of respondents say that the climate is probably or definitely changing – ranging from 83 per cent in the US to 95 per cent in Germany.
  • Outright climate change denial is scarce in all of the countries surveyed. The USA and Sweden have the largest group of people who either doubt climate change or are convinced it is not happening, and, even here, it only comprises just over 10 per cent of those surveyed.
  • Howeverover a third (35%) of those surveyed in the nine countries attribute climate change to a balance of natural and human processes – with this feeling most pronounced in France (44%), the Czech Republic (39%) and the US (38%). The plurality view among respondents is that it is caused “mainly by human activity”.
  • A significant group of ‘soft’ attribution sceptics believe that, contrary to the scientific consensus, climate change is caused equally by human activities and natural processes: these constituencies range from 17 per cent in Spain to 44 per cent in France.  When added to the “hard” attribution sceptics, who don’t believe human activity is a contributing factor to climate change, these sceptics together make up the majority in France, Poland, the Czech Republic and the USA.
  • Majorities believe that climate change will have very negative consequences for life on earth in Spain (65%), Germany (64%), the UK (60%), Sweden (57%), the Czech Republic (56%) and Italy (51%).  However, there is a significant minority of “impact sceptics” who believe the negative consequences will be outweighed by the positive - ranging from 17 per cent in the Czech Republic to 34 per cent in France.  There is also a group in the middle who don’t see global warming as harmless, but think that negative consequences will also be balanced by positive ones.  This “middle group” ranges from 12 per cent in Spain to 43 per cent in France. 
  • Most people don’t think their own lives will be strongly affected by climate change in the next fifteen years. Only in Italy, Germany and France do more than a quarter of people think their lives will be strongly disrupted by climate change by 2035 if no additional action is taken.  While the prevailing view is that there will be some change to their lives, a considerable minority believe their lives won’t change at all as a result of unchecked climate change – with the largest group in the Czech Republic (26%) followed by Sweden (19%), the USA and Poland (18%), Germany (16%) and the UK (15%).
  • Age makes a difference to views on climate change, but only in certain countries. Overall, younger people tend to be more likely to expect negative impacts of climate change on their lives by 2035 if nothing is done to address the issues. This trend is   particularly strong in Germany; where negative impacts are expected by 36 per cent of 18-34 year olds (compared to 30% of 55- 74 year olds), Italy; (46% of 18-34 year olds compared to 33% of 55-74-year olds), Spain; (43% of 18-34 year olds compared to 32% of 55-74 year olds) and the UK; (36% of 18-34 year olds compared to 22% of 55-74 year olds).
  • Imposing higher taxes on flights is only seen as the best option to reduce emissions from flights by a minority - ranging from 18 per cent in Spain to 30 per cent in the US and 36 per cent per cent in the UK.   An outright ban on internal flights within countries is even less popular, enjoying most support in France (14%) and Germany (14%).  The most popular policy for reducing emissions from plane travel is improving the train and bus networks, which is chosen as the best policy by a majority of respondents in Spain, Italy and Poland.
  • Majorities in most countries are willing to persuade their friends and family to behave in a more climate-friendly way – with only 11 per cent in Italy and 18 per cent in Spain not willing to do this.  However, nearly 40 per cent of people in the Czech Republic, France, the US and the UK would not contemplate this idea at all.
  • There is widespread support for switching to a green energy firm to provide household energy. However, France and the US have large minorities (42% and 39% respectively) who would not consider a switch to green energy.  This compares to just 14 per cent in Italy and 20 per cent in Spain who would not consider a change to green energy.
  • Majorities in Europe are willing to reduce their meat consumption, but figures vary widely.  Only a quarter of people in Italy and Germany are not willing to reduce their meat consumption, compared to 58 per cent of people in the Czech Republic, 50 per cent people in the US, and around 40 per cent in the Spain, the UK, Sweden and Poland.

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CO2 emissions

UN shipping agency greenlights a decade of rising greenhouse gas emissions

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Governments have backtracked on their own commitments to urgently reduce climate-heating emissions from the shipping sector, environmental organizations have said following a key meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 17 November.

The IMO’s marine environment protection committee approved a proposal that will allow the shipping sector’s 1 billion tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions to keep rising for the rest of this decade – the very decade in which the world’s climate scientists say we must halve global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to stay within a relatively safe 1.5°C of global warming, as committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.

T&E Shipping Director Faïg Abbasov said: “The IMO has given the go-ahead to a decade of rising greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Europe must now take responsibility and accelerate implementation of the Green Deal. The EU should require ships to pay for their pollution in its carbon market, and mandate the use of alternative green fuels and energy saving technologies. Across the world nations must take action on maritime emissions where the UN agency has utterly failed.”

As acknowledged by many countries in the talks, the approved proposal breaks the initial IMO greenhouse gas strategy in three crucial ways. It will fail to reduce emissions before 2023, will not peak emissions as soon as possible, and will not set shipping CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.

Countries that supported the adoption of the proposal at the IMO, and its abandonment of any effort to tackle climate change in the short term, have lost any moral ground to criticize regions or nations trying to tackle shipping emissions – as part of their economy-wide national climate plans.

John Maggs, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, said: “As scientists are telling us we have less than 10 years to stop our headlong rush to climate catastrophe, the IMO has decided that emissions can keep on growing for 10 years at least. Their complacency is breath-taking. Our thoughts are with the most vulnerable who will pay the highest price for this act of extreme folly.”

Nations and regions serious about facing the climate crisis must now take immediate national and regional action to curb ship emissions, the environmental NGOs said. Nations should act swiftly to set carbon equivalent intensity regulations consistent with the Paris Agreement for ships calling at their ports; require ships to report and pay for their pollution where they dock, and start to create low- and zero-emission priority shipping corridors.

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