Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The alleged Russian conspiracy which is supposed to be helping populists win elections worldwide has now been blamed for a fall in EU nation state support for European renewable energy policies.
How A Populist Europe In Thrall To Russia Threatens Climate Change Action
“We are in a really dangerous moment.”
By Arthur Neslen
26/06/2018 7:45 PM AEST
As a growing number of European countries tip toward the far right politically, attempts to curb climate change are coming under pressure. The region’s race to cut planet-warming greenhouse gases is generating friction, and some Members of European Parliament and experts point the finger of blame at Russian big energy interests and populist governments in thrall to them.
This month, a bid to raise the European Union’s supply of renewable energy to 35 percent of the electricity mix by 2030 was stymied by a bloc of EU states led by populist governments in the Visegrad countries ― Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia ― even though it had the support of the European Parliament and European Commission.
“We see a pattern of populist governments clearly opposing ambitious climate and energy regulations, which is in line with the primary Russian economic interest: exporting fossil fuels and nuclear technology,” Benedek Jávor, the vice-chair of the European parliament’s environment committee and a Hungarian Green MEP, told HuffPost.
Hungary, for example, which is becoming an increasingly authoritarian government under far-right leader Viktor Orbán, is a valued advocate for Russian gas infrastructure and is also building a Russian-financed €10 billion ($11.5 billion) nuclear reactor outside Budapest.
Russia’s energy agenda plays to a wider audience than extreme nationalists. Gas and nuclear are both seen as relatively lower carbon options than coal, which could “bridge” the path to a mid-century world powered solely by renewables. However, some climate studies suggest that, where gas is concerned, the bridge could also burn the chances of limiting global warming to no more than a 2 C temperature rise above pre-Industrial levels ― the target the majority of scientists say cannot be exceeded if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Several academic papers have found that investment in gas could crowd out desperately needed funds for renewable energy while providing few emissions-cutting benefits.
In my opinion HuffPost are making it up as they go. If renewable energy was viable, gas wouldn’t have an opportunity to “crowd out” renewable investment, because renewable investment would make sense on its own terms.
As for Huffpost’s evidence free allegation that Russia is pushing populism to undermine the green agenda, in my opinion it would make far more sense for the Russian government to support the green agenda – to support anti-fracking, anti-nuclear and renewable energy advocacy movements.
More fracking in Europe would undermine Russian gas sales. A Nuclear power renaissance in Europe would undermine Russian gas sales. Useless green energy “investments” not so much.
Of course I’m not suggesting Russia is doing anything of the sort. Why risk scandal and exposure, when liberal green European politicians are doing everything in their power to wreck European energy independence without outside help?