Britain will miss opportunities for a greener and more econoically stable future as a result of the European Commission’s €750 billion euro package unveiled this week to put climate change at the heart of the bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to critics.
Billed as the world’s biggest “green” stimulus, it aims to tackle the economic slump, while fulfilling the Commission’s pledge to slash EU emissions from more than 4 billion tonnes each year now to “net zero” in 2050.
Green funds would also come from the EU’s budget for 2021-27, worth around one trillion euros, and private money.
It includes massive investment in hydrogen fuel.
The Commission wants the EU to produce 1 million tonnes of clean hydrogen – a zero-carbon fuel produced using renewable electricity, which could power traditionally polluting industrial processes.
An existing EU fund could push up to 30 billion euros into the fuel. The Commission would double the EU hydrogen support scheme to 1.3 billion euros.
The bloc will also launch a carbon “contracts for difference” scheme, to pay hydrogen projects the difference between the price of an EU carbon permit and the actual cost of cutting CO2.
A two-year 20 billion euro EU scheme of grants and guarantees should boost sales of “clean” vehicles, with 2 million electric and hydrogen vehicle charging stations to be installed by 2025.
A 40-60 billion euro fund, pulled from existing cash pots in the EU budget, will target investments in zero-emission trains.
The Commission may also tweak existing EU transport funds to trigger up to 20 billion euros in investments for cities rolling out cycling infrastructure and clean public transport.
The project won praise and brought a warning from environmentalists.
The €1.85 trillion recovery plan unveiled by the European Commission today is a historic step forward for the European Union that could spark a green, healthy and just recovery, green group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said.
President von der Leyen proposes ‘recovery bonds’ to finance a ‘Next Generation EU’ plan to ensure no one is left behind by stimulus measures. €500 billion of these bonds would be spent as grants on national projects that could help accelerate the green transition. The plan would also give €250 billion in loans for projects like green infrastructure and technologies.
But the green conditions for which projects can receive funds must be clarified and strengthened, T&E said. The proposal includes a 25% climate spending target and highlights the need for investment in sustainable vehicles and charging stations. But it lacks common definitions for what constitutes “climate spending” or “sustainable vehicles”.
Currently, a fossil gas refuelling point would be “climate spending” under one spending programme but it would not be defined as such under another. The Commission should clarify that only zero-emissions technologies and infrastructure would be supported.
The EU has put its money where its mouth is today with a huge investment in green energy. But leading hydrogen expert Jo Bamford, heir to the JCB empire and owner of world’s first hydrogen double-decker firm Wrightbus, says the UK needs to take the lead.
Jo has urged the British Government to support hydrogen and says a relentless commitment to batteries, all of which are made abroad, won’t help our economic future.
“It’s time the Government supported British industry, British jobs and a product which can be made and used entirely on these shores.”
Jo has already spoken of plans for a hydrogen hub in Northern Ireland and five hydrogen production facilities across the UK in order to deliver 3,000 hydrogen buses by 2024. Some will be hitting the streets in London and Aberdeen later this year.