EU leaders seek to preserve energy supply as prices rise

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On Thursday, European Union leaders seek to protect the energy supplies of the bloc of 27 countries while accelerating the shift from contaminating petroleum derivatives to practical alternatives. The energy debate at Thursday’s EU Heads of State Summit comes amid soaring costs that are plaguing households and businesses that are in fact teetering with the impact of the COVID pandemic. 19. The climax comes 10 days before the launch of a UN environmental highlight which is widely seen as the last opportunity to keep global warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-modern levels. The debate over soaring energy costs is also taking place against a backdrop of icy relations with Russia, one of Europe’s main gas suppliers.

Von der Leyen said the bloc imports 90% of its gas – much of it from strategic rival Russia – “that makes us vulnerable.” Gas represents a quarter of European energy consumption.

“The transition to clean energy is not only vital for our planet. It is also crucial for our economy and for resilience to energy price shocks, ”European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers on Wednesday.

Gas prices have skyrocketed this year from around 19 euros per megawatt hour to 95 euros, affecting everything from household heating bills to farmers and food producers. The EU Executive Board says low-income households are hit hardest as they spend a greater proportion of their income on energy. Many countries have already proposed reductions in energy taxes to ease the pain.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban specifically blamed the hike on the Commission’s Green Deal plans, which include cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and making the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.

While all leaders want to minimize the impact of soaring energy prices on their populations, they differ on how to do it.

The current crisis has reignited a debate on whether the EU should promote nuclear energy projects as a way to become more energy independent. This could be done by making them eligible for billions of euros under the European Green Deal and the Coronavirus Stimulus Fund.

Two years ago, leaders agreed that nuclear power could be part of the EU’s efforts to become carbon neutral. However, they have yet to decide whether nuclear projects can be included in the so-called taxonomy, a classification system attempting to define which activities may be eligible for sustainable investment.

France recently requested the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomic framework by the end of the year, leading the charge with nine other EU countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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