A Green Deal for Europe will fail unless it confronts natural gas

(EurActiv, 27 Sep 2019) The European Commission’s upcoming Green Deal should put an economy-wide target for net-zero emissions by 2050 into law, as well as provide a clear decarbonisation trajectory for the gas sector in line with the Paris Agreement, write Jonathan Gaventa and Lisa Fischer.

Jonathan Gaventa is a senior associate and member of the board of E3G, a climate change think tank. Lisa Fischer is senior policy advisor in E3G’s London office.

The incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is committed to establishing a European Green Deal in her first 100 days in office.

A successful green deal will need to maximise climate mitigation, invest in modern and resilient European infrastructure and protect vulnerable consumers and taxpayers from undue costs. Adopting a new agenda on natural gas will be necessary to succeed, for three reasons:

First, tackling natural gas emissions inside and outside Europe is crucial to combating climate change. Natural gas is the world’s fastest-growing fossil fuel and the only fossil fuel still growing in Europe. In Europe, if we are to achieve our climate targets, consumption of unabated natural gas must start dropping drastically and reach zero by mid-century. Globally, the expansion of gas supply needs to stop over the next decade.

To achieve this, the Commission must set clear decarbonisation objectives. The upcoming Green Deal package should put an economy-wide target for net-zero emissions by 2050 into law, as well as provide a clear decarbonisation trajectory for the gas sector in line with the Paris Agreement.

Early policy visibility will allow industries to embark on an orderly transformation. This long-term visibility should be combined with measures for smart integration of the electricity, heating, transport and industry sectors – as included in von der Leyen’s mandate to her Commissioner-designate Kadri Simson.

Giving equal market participation to gas consumption alternatives such as energy efficiency measures, vehicle-to-grid technology, and battery storage will kick start an efficient transition with maximum consumer choice. The upcoming legislation to decarbonise the gas sector is an opportunity to do this, and, to be effective, actions to remove fossil fuel subsidies and distortions will also be necessary.

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EurActiv, 27 Sep 2019: A Green Deal for Europe will fail unless it confronts natural gas