June 23, 2024
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SEE region: Outs and gamble on fossil gas

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Despite EU negotiators pushing for a decarbonised global power system in the 2030s at the climate negotiations currently taking place at COP28 in Dubai, Italy, Hungary and North Macedonia have postponed their coal phase-out commitments by several years. All three countries still plan to be coal-free by 2030: the latest possible date for European countries to exit coal and be compatible with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit increase in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The delays stem from risky plans to replace coal power plants with gas power generation units – another fossil fuel that damages the climate. As the hottest year on record draws to a close, any delay to the energy transition threatens to accelerate climate collapse: a catastrophe UN Secretary-General António Guterres says we are now experiencing in “real time”.

Alexandru Mustață, campaigner at Beyond Fossil Fuels, said: “Right now, EU negotiators are at COP28 seeking to lead the world to a predominantly decarbonised global power system in the 2030s. The implications for investors in fossil gas are clear: any new European gas power plant is at enormous risk of becoming a stranded asset. Fossil gas also drives inflation, undermines energy security, and deepens the climate emergency. For all these reasons, governments, utilities, and financiers should be planning for a European fossil gas exit by 2035 at the latest.

Addressing the situation in Italy, which centres on the country’s major utility Enel, Antonio Tricarico, programs director at ReCommon, said: “Enel accepts that constructing new fossil gas plants in Italy is dependent on capacity payments. However, allocating public subsidies to fossil gas infrastructure is a huge gamble, not only because of the damage fossil gas does to the climate, but because it’s highly susceptible to becoming a stranded asset. With Italy hosting the G7 Presidency next year, the government’s focus should be on improving Italy’s national energy and climate plan so that it delivers on the group’s commitment of an ‘overwhelmingly decarbonised’ power system by the 2030s’.

Reflecting on Hungary’s decision to prolong its coal phase-out, Alexa Botar, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth Hungary, said: “Instead of accelerating the just transformation to a sustainable energy future, Hungary’s government is prolonging the use of lignite at its struggling Matra power coal power plant while seeking EU funds for new fossil fuel projects, including a new fossil gas unit. Investing in fossil gas not only increases emissions, but reinforces the country’s fossil-dependent, centralised power system. Redirecting EU funds and state aid to pay for a comprehensive energy savings program and small-scale renewables and storage for households and SMEs, as well as supporting community energy initiatives, would revolutionise Hungary’s power system, and drive down electricity prices and emissions.

Source: boyondfossilfuels.org

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