Beyond COP27: expectations across Europe

24 November 2022

In the year since the last COP in Glasgow, UK, we have seen unequivocal signs of the unfolding climate emergency, from devastating floods to unprecedented heatwaves and droughts. However, countries around the world have also been confronting the impacts of energy, food, and cost-of-living crises, and as a result, we’ve only seen 29 out of 194 countries come forward with strengthened national climate plans. There were hopes that this year’s conference would be the ‘implementation COP’. With another iteration now completed, we look at whether it delivered and what needs to happen next.

Despite some promising action, including a series of symbolic moves on loss and damage, many will see COP27 as yet another missed opportunity to keep global temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold. Energy Day itself failed to deliver on a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. In fact, there were more fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 than at any other previous conference, despite the energy sector currently contributing around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Moving forward, it is our hope that Europe continues to act as the leader in energy reform. The EU Green Deal has set out a number of proposals to make the region’s policies fit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, including the REPowerEU plan to build a new energy system. But each country within Europe is starting at a different point, has unique challenges to overcome and will have to identify the solutions that work best for them and the planet.

We’ve spoken to our teams across Europe to find out what they want to see happen beyond COP27 and the actions that need to be taken to propel each country forward in the energy transition.

United Kingdom

At COP27, Rishi Sunak said that “climate and energy security go hand-in-hand, Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster.” And in the UK, the rollout of clean energy is heading in the right direction. Renewable sources, including wind and solar, now make up more than 40 percent of its energy supply – a four-fold increase on a decade ago, and the Environmental Audit Committee has just announced that it is set to look at the role onshore solar energy technologies can play in the UK’s journey to net zero.

However, there are still hurdles to overcome and attitudes to change. Only last week, the environment secretary Thérèse Coffey confirmed restrictions on solar farms being built on agricultural land. Our team in the UK is hoping to see concrete plans set to address the barriers to solar development.

Declan Deasy, Chief Operating Officer based in the UK, says “In the midst of a global energy crisis, the deployment of renewables must be at the core of the climate conversation. Solar is cheap, green, and home-grown, and must play a vital role in our pursuit of net zero. In the UK, we’re seeing strong underlying growth trends in the industry, high public support for solar and continued developments in PV technology.

“The target for a fivefold increase in solar capacity by 2035 in the government’s Energy Security Strategy is achievable, but we need to address the barriers to widespread rollout, which include a constrained grid and workforce shortages. Discussions about the challenges facing the deployment of renewables should be at the forefront of the conversation.”

Greece

October saw promising news for the net zero transition in Greece, with the country running entirely on renewable energy for five hours for the first time in history. This is an important milestone as Greece aims to more than double its green energy capacity and for renewables to account for at least 70% of its energy mix by 2030. Over the last decade, the road for the deployment of renewables in Greece has experienced hurdles and periods of stagnation, but this achievement proves that an electricity system with increasing shares of renewables is feasible and within reach. We need to see political will and bold action from the Greek government to get there.

Stefanos Lialios, Country Manager in Greece, says: “We need more concrete action, speeding up of renewable penetration, which has stalled a little, and the setting of ambitious, achievable goals. We need to turn our focus back to the fight against climate change, as it has slipped down the list due to the energy crisis and wars.

“In Greece, we need a clear roadmap to decarbonisation and more investment in the grid so we can accelerate the rollout of renewables. We need to move at a faster pace than we are at the moment.”

France

In France, president Macron’s renewable energy drive has brought about some impressive climate commitments in recent months. Last week, legislation was approved that will require all large car parks to be covered by solar panels. French politicians are also looking at proposals to build solar farms on empty land by motorways and railways. We are hugely encouraged by the new plans, but there are still regulatory constraints and administrative processes that are slowing the rate of change.

Eric Elbaz, Country Manager in France, says: “We need to see respect of the commitments made at COP26 by accelerating the investment in renewable and clean energies. To achieve CO2 reduction goals and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C, we need to develop a green economy and follow through with promises concerning providing aid to the poorest countries to tackle the climate crisis.

“In the context of the energy crisis, the French government must promote alternative solutions that protect the environment by freeing up land and simplifying the administrative rules.”

Italy

Italy is one of the most prominent countries in Europe and the world when it comes to renewable energy production. Solar accounts for a fifth of all the green energy produced there and meets between 7-8% of the nation’s total energy requirements. This year, Italy has been leading the way for the development of agrivoltaic projects, introducing a €1.2 billion scheme to support investments for the deployment of solar PV panels in the agricultural sector.

However, the pipeline of renewable energy projects is still relatively difficult to unlock, as the country’s regulatory framework presents a barrier to project development and construction.

Federica Gallina, Development Director in Italy, says: “We need a clear path carved out for financial assistance for projects that combine renewable energy with support for agriculture and food production. In Italy, we also need clear instructions for national and local authorities to support the capital deployment in renewable energy projects, with a simplified and clear authorisation process.”

Across Europe, it is clear that solar will be a cornerstone of the global transition to clean energy and net zero emissions. To limit average global temperature increases to 1.5°C, the deployment of wind and solar needs to accelerate by a factor of four this decade and a factor of ten by 2050, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Ultimately, while each country is at a different stage in their journey and has individual hurdles to overcome, they are united in the need to deliver a faster pace of change. This will require huge effort from policymakers, investors, and the energy sector itself. The technologies needed to deliver net zero ambitions exist, but the opportunity will be missed without rapid and bold action. Moving forward, we need greater investment in clean energy, collaboration across the private and public sector, and clear action plans for removing the barriers to the widespread rollout of solar.

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