Europe plans to invest in hydrogen and significantly reduce emissions
The European Commission did not rest on its laurels over the summer and prepared bold plans in the field of environmental regulation. The Commission sees the future in hydrogen and, as part of its new strategy, plans to invest in hydrogen infrastructure. This and other visions were presented by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen within her first State of the Union Address: Europe should strive to further reduce emissions and considerable funds will be allocated to the transformation of affected regions and the support of green projects. The OECD also considers it important to keep the environment in mind when revitalising economies and calls for the restructuring of critical sectors. After all, the state of the environment has a significant impact not only on nature but also on the length and quality of our lives, as is clear from the latest report of the European Environment Agency.
Europe will emerge greener from the pandemic-induced crisis
In her very first State of the Union Address, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen described the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity for a green transformation of the European economy. For instance, the Commission plans to raise almost a third of the planned recovery fund worth EUR 750 billion by selling green bonds. Investments from this fund will be allocated to green projects, such as those concerning hydrogen, the construction of electric charging stations or sustainable construction industry. The President of the Commission promised a fair transformation and stated that the EU will specifically support regions dependent on coal and steel industries. Within the Czech Republic, the funds could go to the Karlovy Vary, Ústí nad Labem and Moravian-Silesian regions.
In accordance with the previous commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, Ursula von der Leyen announced a plan to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. A number of instruments should help to achieve this goal: the Commission plans to strengthen emissions trading, support the development of renewable energy and propose a reform of energy taxation. However, we will have to wait for any specific plans.
The European Parliament also commented on the topic of emission reduction and carbon neutrality, proposing an even more ambitious reduction of 60%. It remains to be seen whether such a goal will be carried through within further negotiations.
Hydrogen is crucial for achieving carbon neutrality
The European Commission has developed a hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe, which entails investments in hydrogen infrastructure. According to the Commission, in addition to energy from renewable sources, hydrogen should complement the energy mix in Europe. It can also be used to store energy from renewable sources and could replace fossil fuels in the steel and chemical industries. The gradual transition to hydrogen will take place in three phases: in the first phase (by 2024), electrolysers for the production of hydrogen from renewable sources should be built; in the second phase (by 2030), hydrogen should be integrated into the European energy system; in the third phase (by 2050), “clean” hydrogen should become an integral part of the energy system and help decarbonise problematic sectors. Hydrogen as a strategic raw material has its supporters and adversaries, and only time will tell whether the plans included in the strategy will come to fruition.
Environmental factors have a significant impact on the life expectancy and quality of life of EU citizens
According to the WHO, up to 13% of all deaths in the European Union can be attributed to environmental factors: the most severe of them is air pollution, followed by excessive noise, manifestations of climate change, exposure to hazardous chemicals or water pollution. As stated in the report of the European Environment Agency (EEA), it is the air quality that improved the most: the overall number of victims of air pollution has decreased by 60 % compared to 1990, from 1 million to 417 thousand. However, the EEA points out that other risk factors are no less dangerous and at the same time overlooked, especially excessive noise and indoor air quality. In addition, the citizens of the European Union must expect that in the future, climate change will have an increasingly negative effect on the quality of life and health. The EEA calls for further research into environmental risk factors and for member states to address climate change and environmental damage in a systematic and scientific manner.
The OECD calls for investments in sustainability and green economy
Similar to the European Union, the OECD also considers it important to focus on green measures when revitalising the economy. The pandemic had both positive and negative effects on the environment. However, the impacts are rather short-term in both cases and, even now, it is necessary to keep the environmental protection goals in mind. In its latest analysis, the OECD presented several suggestions which should help overcome the economic crisis, create new jobs and, at the same time, contribute to the solution to the climate crisis. The OECD based its assumptions on the policies implemented in the OECD member states and partner countries. As a positive example, it quotes the European Green Deal and its plans in the field of green investments as well as establishing emission limits. According to the OECD, individual states should focus on restructuring critical sectors, such as energy, land transport, construction and agriculture. It also recommends that states reform the system of fossil fuel subsidies and carbon pricing.