But we can get out of this mess. We in Europe must do our fair share to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. For Europe, this means a fair and urgent transition to a fossil-free energy system by 2030.
Here [and in this pdf booklet] we outline what we need to do to bring about a safe and clean Europe, free from fossil fuels. The movement towards a fossil-free Europe cannot be stopped.
Public support for fossil fuels comes in the form of trillions in public subsidies, public loans, regulated prices and tax benefits. Between 2014 and 2016 alone, 11 European countries and the EU provided at least €112 billion towards the production and consumption of fossil fuels in Europe.
Support and financing from the private sector is also funding climate chaos -- banks, insurance companies, pension funds and hedge funds provide billions in loans and financial services to fossil fuel companies, which allows them to continue expanding.
We urgently need to stop financing climate destruction. Forcing our leaders and public and private banks to stop funding fossil fuels, and legally challenging polluting companies for the climate damage they make, will shift finance from climate pollution to climate solutions.
The fossil fuel industry -- the most lucrative sector of all time -- works hard to protect its interests. Fossil fuel companies spend millions of euros influencing our politicians and greenwashing their own image. To enable an energy transformation, the power of this industry needs to be reigned in.
Lobbying: The fossil fuel industry is doing everything it can to slow down the energy transition. It aggressively lobbies against ambitious climate laws, using a range of tactics; from organising events and dinners with decision-makers to threatening to move jobs elsewhere if the transition is “too abrupt”. The fossil fuel industry’s pollution of our politics through lobbying must end, and fossil fuel companies should be excluded from official advisory groups and bodies.
Advertising: After years of promoting climate change denial, the industry is now resorting to ‘greenwashing’ tactics, depicting a “greener” image as public awareness of climate change is on the rise. Their promotion of false solutions, and supposedly “clean” fossil fuels, blurs lines and slows down the roll-out of real solutions. Like the tobacco industry before them, the toxic influence of fossil fuel advertising should be curbed.
A whole flurry of unproven and ineffective false “solutions” are being promoted by the fossil fuel industry to hold back the energy transition and keep us hooked on fossil fuels. “Clean coal”, gas as a “transition” fuel, carbon capture and storage (CCS), negative emission technologies, nuclear power, unsustainable bioenergy, harmful dams, geoengineering technologies, spraying chemicals into our atmosphere… At their best, these false solutions are a waste of time and money. At their worst, they create new dangers. None will deliver, as none addresses the root issues of the climate crisis. They are profit-driven distractions.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that landed us in this mess. Often, the first solution to climate change proposed by politicians and the fossil industry is a new market. The world’s first carbon market is the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), where pollution permits are bought and traded. But so far, due to a very low price for pollution, fraud, over-allocation of pollution permits, and windfall profits for polluting companies through free permits, the system has failed. Despite this, similar schemes are being conceived all over the world.
The faster we recognise the market will not be a magic response to the climate problem, the faster we can move on to the solutions that have proven their merit.
A fossil-free Europe means a Europe that doesn’t explore, extract, or import fossil fuels from the rest of the world. Today, fossil fuel exploration has enormous negative impacts in the Global South, harming the environment, people, and the climate. Fossil fuel extraction is very often associated with human rights violations and large-scale corruption. Labeled a “curse” by many, countries that have fossil reserves often rank low on poverty and human development indexes.
European fossil fuel companies like Shell, BP, Total, Eni and Repsol are directly harming communities in the Global South - adding to the burden of health problems, collapsing ecosystems, or damaged local economies. Those communities are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Impunity is the rule, with affected communities almost never compensated for the damage. Fossil fuel companies must be brought to account and clean up their mess.
As our current energy system is deeply wasteful, we cannot transition without first reducing our demand for energy. Saving energy offers more comfort and wellbeing for people and communities: through renovation programmes targeting inefficient homes, through better household products, through improved transport models, and cutting superfluous energy use. It lowers energy bills, alleviates energy poverty in housing and transport, and creates green local jobs.
Stopping energy waste is a direct threat to the fossil fuel industry’s profits and business model, which is why those companies lobby aggressively against more ambition.
We must switch our energy sources to a 100% renewable-powered system. Solutions differ with locations -- in some places, this will mean harnessing the power of wind, the sun, waves… Renewable generation, smart demand management and energy storage technology is there, and getting cheaper and cheaper. Switching also offers the chance to reduce our energy imports and create millions of local jobs across Europe.
Renewable energy is growing, but we need to drastically increase the scale and pace of renewable installations.
Today, our energy system is in the hands of big energy monopolies. They are keeping us hooked on a high-consumption, fossil-fueled economy, and taking decisions in their financial interest -- not in the interest of people and planet. We need to break the power of the fossil fuel industry by putting energy in the hands of communities and people. Communities, cities, and ‘energy citizens’ who produce their own energy are at the vanguard of Europe’s energy transition – which is seeing Europe’s energy shift to greater democratisation and decentralisation.
All over Europe, this revolution has started. People and communities are building their own renewable projects, installing energy storage, and investing in energy savings to reduce their needs: they are showing us the way forward.
As the fossil fuel sector is challenged by climate action, so are the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers all over Europe. The energy transition must be just for workers. This means acknowledging that the phase out of fossil fuels will affect workers employed in the industry, and giving workers leadership and resources to plan for the future, to ensure no one is left behind. This should include plans for reskilling people, to allow them to make the shift to new areas of work, but also guaranteed decent and quality jobs in the economy of the future.
We need to ensure the green jobs in the fossil-free system are decent, with benefits, protection and organisation for workers. We also need to ensure that costs and benefits of energy transition are distributed fairly.
In terms of climate change, the past matters. Greenhouse gases emitted in the past continue to warm the atmosphere and will do so for up to thousands of years, and their impacts are felt longer still.
All countries must do their fair share, according to how much they have contributed to causing the crisis. This is where justice comes in. European countries hold the highest responsibility for climate change - and they must fully recognise this, initiate the transition by sharply reducing emissions here, and transfer finance and technology to the Global South. This also means paying financial compensation to countries which suffer irreparable harm from climate change.
Across Europe, people are at the forefront of an energy transformation. Together, we can make a #FossilFree Europe happen.