By now you will have heard many times that the economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic presents policymakers with an unprecedented opportunity to put climate measures at the forefront of any stimulus package.
Which is indeed true. However, there is already an imbalance of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of the energy transition, and that gap could get wider instead of closing if we’re not careful.
I’m not talking globally: we all know that there’s not a one-size-fits-all clean energy solution for the world. I’m talking about Europe, the poster child of the energy transition.
Because while many countries have significant renewables capacity and can boast ‘smart cities’, some are still having to burn coal ” and a lot of it ” to keep the lights on.
If the energy transition is going to be a so-called ‘just transition’, then countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria need to be front and centre of stimulus packages, and not at the back of the queue. In fact, if they’re not, the European Union can forget about ever hitting its 2050 climate neutral target.
Accelerating emissions reductions in central and eastern Europe could be the biggest win of any EU recovery package, and one that in turn could signpost the road to similar progress for countries in Asia facing the similar coal-versus-climate conundrum.
Will it happen? Actually, I’m optimistic: recent European Commission energy packages talk in inclusive terms about bringing together all member states with climate action as a common goal.
Ridding central and eastern Europe of coal is no easy-win: but then the fights most worth having rarely are.
Until next time,