When we look around ourselves today, there are genuine reasons to be hopeful. The urgency of climate change is never far from the headlines, and civil society is ramping up pressure on governments to deliver on climate action.
By Pierre Tardieu, Chief Policy Officer, WindEurope, Belgium
Activist Greta Thunberg’s recent ‘Our house is on fire’ speech in Davos may, in time, prove to mark a historic turning point as youth speak truth to power. It is riding a wave of a greater movement, with the public voicing serious concerns over the weak response of their governments to the climate crisis: for weeks now, in Belgium and beyond, thousands of school children have been walking out of school in protest against insufficient action on climate by the authorities. In France, millions of people have signed the petition L’affaire du Siècle, holding the French government to account on its climate commitment.
We know that the urgent challenges we face are not new. We know that the technologies we need to get us on the right track already exist, and they have a proven track record.
But there is a dangerously wide gap between the long-term climate ambitions which governments like to trumpet and the actual policy choices they are making today.
Right now, European countries have agreed to a process to plan their climate and energy policies. By the end of 2019, every member state of the European Union (EU) must have a National Energy and Climate Plan. This plan is meant to cover the buildout of renewables, energy efficiency, grids, and research & innovation until 2030.
If these plans do not set Europe on course to decarbonise its economy by mid-century, society can and should call them out.
At WindEurope, we are looking at the draft plans. Right now, the numbers for renewables are okay. They almost add up to the EU’s binding target of having 32% renewables in Europe’s energy mix. But the current drafts suffer from a glaring lack of detail on how governments will actually get to where they want to be. In their current state, the drafts say little about the renewables-based electrification of heating, transport and industry. They do not focus enough on research and innovation. And, crucially, they do not give the visibility that investors in wind and other renewables need in order to unlock investments and drive irreversible change in the energy system.
On the 2 April, governments will meet to exchange notes on their plans and assess the overall level of ambition. Chances are they will be quite pleased that, on paper, their numbers add up to their collective goal on renewables.
Frankly, this is not good enough. Objectives without any clear measures for their delivery are simply not meaningful. They do not address the concerns of civil society. They do not prepare Europe to capitalise on its first mover advantage in climate mitigation technologies such as wind energy. They do not inspire any hope for meaningful change.
Greta Thunberg began her Davos speech by declaring that our house is on fire. The draft plans by EU member states are meant to provide a blueprint for fighting that fire. Right now, they amount to little more than nice-sounding declarations of hope. Hope is all well and good but we need far more than that from our governments. We need practical measures and clear and well-planned steps to turn a political vision into a concrete reality.
When a house is on fire, ‘hope’ is not a plan.