Thursday, October 28, 2021

Energy price crisis risk fuels response against climate action

“Being green is easy,” Boris Johnson said at the UN General Assembly last week.

Analysts say he and other European leaders are equally committed to net-zero carbon emissions, however, turning green is not that easy, and there may be a high election price to pay.

The energy crisis ravaging the continent has put Johnson and other European leaders in a difficult position to reduce fossil fuels, while preferring affordable access to heating homes and factories to avoid a political backlash by voters and businesses. are furious at the rising cost of running.

Energy prices have hit a seven-year high and gas and coal reserves are dwindling. Russia has not increased its natural gas exports. The jump in natural gas prices is largely due to an increase in Asian demand and short supply in Europe, which has seen wholesale gas prices rise by 250 to 280% this year. Electricity prices are also rising as natural gas is used to generate a large percentage of electricity across the continent.

The price hikes come at a delicate time for governments as they plan to accelerate the post-net-zero transition to fossil energy production, which they say will eventually see cheaper prices. Consumers and voters, however, will not see the benefits of cheaper post-fossil energy for some time – they are now seeing higher costs due to the mixed energy squeeze in some cases by carbon and green taxes.

Some advocates fear the energy-price crisis will be seen by voters as a harbinger of things to come and prompt a backlash against net-zero policies.

From Britain to Germany, Europe’s mainstream party leaders are scrambling to respond to a surge in support for green parties and carbon-neutral policies as their voters worry about the impact of climate change. Several governments have announced ambitious carbon-reduction targets to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In June 2019, Britain, which will host the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, later this year, became the first G7 to set into law a commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The country became

Delivering on radical climate action will be complicated and difficult for governments to expect, however, some analysts and politicians, both advocating for radical climate action and their opponents, warn. The energy-price crisis is to be discussed when EU national leaders meet in Brussels for a summit later this month, EU officials say. Last month, Spain warned the European Commission that emissions reduction measures “cannot stand a sustained period of outrageous electricity prices.”

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Even before the energy crunch, some government ministers and think tanks were warning that it was unclear whether Europeans were willing to make the necessary sacrifices for a carbon-free future and could become more reluctant as the transition from fossil fuels could reduce the cost of living. messes with and lifestyle.

Britain’s Tony Blair Institute for Global Change warned earlier this year that “meeting our future goals will have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of people across the country.” in its study pole different? Mapping the Politics of Net ZeroThe London-based institute, founded by the former UK prime minister, said, “While climate change has pushed the political agenda, and all major parties are committed to delivering net zero, we are still in the early stages of understanding why What kind of politics climate change will evolve – and, crucially, how a political coalition can be built and maintained.”

The institute said that an examination of British voter attitudes and values ​​suggested that “politicians can be confident that there is a strong and sustained desire for climate action,” but also cautioned that “the net needs to support action”. For the development of a long-term political alliance “zero is in danger.”

Similar findings have been drawn from other think tank studies about potential political struggles to implement the European Commission’s net-zero proposal to cut pollution by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

In a paper for the London School of Economics, Patrick Baer, ​​lecturer in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and Federica Genovese, an environmental policy expert at the University of Essex in England, warned about the need to buy. —as these proposals ask the general public to “make it more expensive to operate appliances, operate cars, and heat homes.”

He questioned whether a proposed EU compensation scheme for the most vulnerable and the poorest would be enough to “address the economic outrage and social anxiety that fuels upheaval across the continent.”

A fueling station is closed amid a fuel shortage in London on September 30, 2021.

The LSE paper was written last month before the energy price crisis started across Europe. Some opponents of radical climate action plans have captured the current crisis. “If consumers are convinced that net zero exposes them to punitive costs or supply insecurity, they will rightly reject it,” said Charles Moore, former editor Daily Telegraph, warned last month.

Craig McKinley, a British Conservative MP and member of a group in the House of Commons that criticizes net-zero plans, challenged Johnson in parliament last month about the cost of implementing the government’s carbon-emissions targets and warned that “extraordinary plans for a greener country” would provide cold rest for the common people.

McKinley has warned that the British government’s estimate of how much it will cost to green Britain is seriously flawed and underestimates the actual cost.

The British government has formally accepted a climate change committee’s cost estimates, which estimate that Britain’s move to move away from fossil fuels will cost the country more than $67 billion annually by 2050. It accounts for about 1% of the country’s GDP. However, internal government documents have recently shown that Britain’s own Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suspects the projection is flawed and estimates the cost to be 40% higher.

Some independent experts have been even more contemptuous and have pointed out that New Zealand’s government, which is also looking at adopting a net-zero benchmark by 2050, believes it will allow advanced economies to reduce their GDP. Could spend as much as 16% of the product to rid itself of it within three decades. of fossil fuels.

The cost of separating gas boilers, switching from gas and diesel cars to electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, and moving homes and businesses to renewable energy sources will have to be shared between governments, homeowners, producers and consumers. This will have political and election repercussions, according to analysts, pointing to how a carbon tax and high fuel costs affected France, along with Yellow Vest protests in 2018 and 2019.

Voters are already hesitant to adopt climate action – or are at least concerned about sanctions and costs. Germany’s Green Party, the strongest in Europe, saw its share of the vote increase in last month’s federal elections, but was disappointed not to see a huge jump.

“The election result makes one thing clear,” Volker Wissing, general secretary of the pro-business Free Democrats, told broadcaster ARD on Monday. “People don’t want climate protection at the cost of prosperity, and people also don’t want prosperity at the cost of nature and the environment. So we need to bring these things together and work out solutions on how we can reconcile the climate. protection and prosperity.”

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