europe\'s carbon choice
The government and businesses have raised a radical question: should the EU go to a low-carbon economy in disregard of international climate change negotiations?
The idea that Europe might unilaterally push other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions represents, in itself, an astonishing reversal of the wisdom gained.
This means that, since controlling emissions is economically expensive, countries or regions cannot act unilaterally: Doing so will only push overseas industries to markets with lower punitive costs.
Therefore, only new international climate agreements can ensure the necessary actions in individual countries.
When the failure of the Copenhagen conference makes the prospect of such a deal slim, aggressive emissions cuts appear to be on hold.
In the case of Europe, this means that the EU will retain its agreed target of 20% reduction (on 1990 levels)
By 2020, but no more.
However, just a few months later, Europe is discussing whether the EU should increase its emissions reduction by 2020 to 30%.
Britain, France and Germany supported the call.
More notably, some major European companies have publicly expressed support.
How is this possible?
There are three factors that have changed this argument.
First, by 2020, the recession had fallen by 30%.
European emissions fell by 7% in 2008, and the European Union has closed down (at 17%)
The 20% reduction target is 2020.
It is calculated that the reduction will be increased to 30%, and now the cost of the European economy will not be much higher than the original 20% target.
The recession\'s most important climate policy for Europe-its emissions trading program (ETS).
The plan is to price carbon by limiting the total emissions of power producers and industries and then allowing businesses to trade pollution allowances.
But the recession created a huge license surplus in the system, as companies found that they don\'t need to allocate quantities now because of the much lower output.
As a result, ETS\'s carbon price rose by only 15 euros per ton, which did not provide enough incentive for energy and industry companies to invest in low-carbon technologies at all.
In fact, it encourages the traditional high
Carbon investment in natural gas and coal-fired power generation.
As this investment continues for 40 years, it could lead to high emissions in Europe for decades ---
Europe\'s commitment to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 is almost impossible.
The debate entered a second factor.
Not long ago, radical.
Without much technical or economic base, the emissions target looks like an empty promise.
However, a compelling new study published by the European Climate Foundation in close cooperation with the European energy industry shows that by 2050, European emission reduction of 80% is not only technically feasible, it can be achieved at the same cost as business as usual.
The \"roadmap 2050\" study shows that the current low-carbon technology (
Renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage)
In 40 years, Europe was provided with 40% more electricity than it is now with the same reliability, but almost no emissions.
As oil and gas prices are expected to rise sharply during this period, 20-
30 euros per ton of carbon dioxide will make this low-carbon power system less expensive than a high-carbon power system powered by conventional fossil fuels.
There will be no net cost to GDP, economic productivity will increase by improving energy efficiency, employment will increase slightly, and energy security will also have great benefits.
The key to low-carbon is the development of the European \"super grid\", an enhanced transmission network that connects power and demand (and beyond)the continent.
Such a grid will solve the \"intermittent\" problem suffered by individual renewable technologies: when the wind is insufficient to power offshore turbines off the coast of the UK, solar panels in Spain and North Africa can provide electricity.
With the enhancement of the \"smart grid\" technology, it is possible to balance the supply and demand of the system, such a grid will allow electric vehicles and electric heat pumps to be widely used in the construction, further promoting the overall reduction of carbon emissions in Europe.
The investment needed to implement the Roadmap 2050 vision is huge: with more than 3 trillion of existing demand, an additional 4 trillion euros in 40 years.
In the next decade, investment in new energy and power grids alone will likely reach euro 250bn.
But European policymakers have quickly identified a inference in which there is a third argument for urgent action ---
With Europe\'s economy still in recession, the enormous potential for job creation to stimulate growth remains.
For Europe\'s leading energy and manufacturing companies, domestic action has created a market to win the global competition for clean technology development and supply.
More and more European politicians have noted the potential of this area relative to the United States and other industrialized countries with stagnant climate legislation, as well as China\'s relative European economic advantage, and are now their main exporters.
This is not to say that the argument for stronger unilateral action has been won.
Politically, this demand is largely the demand of northern and western Europe, which the new members of Eastern Europe have largely resisted.
At the same time, while energy companies and high-tech manufacturers are attracted by economic interests, many companies in Europe are opposed because of concerns about rising energy costs.
In the coming months, a series of EU decisions will determine the direction of the continent.
The 27 member states of the EU face historic choices.
Are they waiting for an international agreement while allowing Europe to continue the high-carbon route?
Or are they moving towards a low-carbon future now?
The answer they give will be far beyond the borders of Europe.
A longer version of the article is published in insider.