Illustration; Source: Transport & Environment

Seven NGOs urge Europe to set coal, oil, and gas phase-out dates

With a barrage of heatwaves across the world last year, climate change continued to relentlessly chip away at the environment, as the shift in weather patterns laid bare the need to take swift action to mitigate the risks. With this at the forefront, a coalition of seven nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has sent a letter, encouraging the European Commission to come up with fossil fuel phase-out dates within the roadmap for Europe’s 2040 target.

Illustration; Source: Transport & Environment

The pressure is mounting on countries to clearly define coal, oil, and gas phase-out dates after COP28 addressed fossil fuels for the first time in the history of these conferences, setting the expectation that countries should pursue transition away from fossil fuels via climate plans. Aside from including the call to transition away from all fossil fuels in the final text, the COP28 UN climate talks also brought home the key role critical minerals would play in the energy transformation ecosystem and fight against climate change.

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Bearing this in mind WWF, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, CAN Europe, EEB, E3G, Global Citizen, and Carbon Market Watch decided to write to the European Commission, asking European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen; European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič; and Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, to set up “clear” fossil fuel phase-out dates for Europe as part of its forthcoming communication on the 2040 target.

“The EU’s Green Deal puts the Union on track for a ca. 30% reduction in gas demand, and the EU could reduce by 16% its oil consumption between 2021 and 2030. While both are substantive progress, neither are explicit goals or sufficiently ambitious to keep the globe on track for 1.5°C,” outlined the letter.

According to these seven NGOs, coal should be phased out no later than 2030, gas no later than 2035, and oil at the latest by 2040. WWF, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, CAN Europe, EEB, E3G, Global Citizen, and Carbon Market Watch believe that these objectives are “technically viable.”

While referring to the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change’s warning that “the EU’s own policies are not yet fully aligned with such phase out and risk locking the EU’s energy infrastructure into emission-intensive fossil fuels,” the NGOs point out that the Commission’s 2040 target communication should entail the Council conclusions, which stressed “the need for work towards agreeing 1.5ºC compatible goals and targets (…) to go hand in hand with (…) the phase-out of fossil fuel energy production and consumption.”

In a bid to justify their proposed phase-out targets, the NGOs emphasize that the ESABCC’s analysis showed limited amounts of coal and gas in the power sector across their modeling – less than 4% of coal by 2030 and less than 6% of fossil gas by 2040.

“We urge you to clearly state such timelines for fossil fuels and sectors within the forthcoming communication, in order to provide long-term investment certainty to European citizens and industries, to enable the multi-stakeholder planning needed for a just transition and to allow this continent to abandon fossil fuels and become evermore energy independent and resilient, thanks to a fully renewables-based energy system, in the coming decades,” underscored the NGOs.

The European Union has been at the forefront of emerging green and low-carbon energy projects ever since it embarked on a quest to decarbonize its energy system. This is hammered home by the European Commission’s proposal of 166 cross-border energy infrastructure projects to complete the EU’s energy system overhaul and achieve climate goals. These projects aim to tilt the policy and investment landscape from fossil fuels to renewables, enabling the EU to reach its net zero targets.

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The projects, which have the potential to double the European Union’s grid capacity by 2030 and enable it to meet its renewable energy target, encompass grid upgrades and the buildout of more hydrogen, green electricity, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).