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Greenpeace’s Jan Haverkamp on Energy and Polution in Romania

January 10, 2008

Countries like Romania and Bulgaria would benefit more from investing in renewable energy from now rather than argue with the European Commission about caps for CO2 emissions.

As a part of the EU energy policy, which has as a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% till 2020 from the 1990 levels, the countries who are members of the union are supposed to compile a national plan outlining the quanity of emissions their industries need to produce in the 2008-2012 period (this is already the second stage of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme). The Commission then decides whether to accept those quantities of emissions or not. In most cases, the EC decides to reduce the quantities the countries propose.

Naturally, the national governments complain. The new EU members made no exception. In 2007, seven of the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004, protested against limits on emissions imposed by the Commission. At the end of the same year, Romania and Bulgaria decided to do the same. Mainly, the countries are worried that they will lose good money by not being able to sell to richer countries the carbon credits they do not consume.

In Romania, the whole nation rallied behing the government, starting with the minister for the environment. Forums are full of comments about how Romania, as a Eastern European country, is “discriminated” by the Commission and how these reductions in emissions will completely paralize our industry, causing also price increases. Politicians feed this well. Growth before the environment, all say in one voice. As we hear so often, this is not yet the time to be worried about the environment.

 But Jan Haverkamp, expert on energy issues in Central and Eastern Europe, has a different take on things:

 “Greenpeace has been very clear about its position on emissions for many years. The Romanian economy has ample possibilitities to grow while at the same time lowering its CO2 emissions. In fact, when it would take up the challenge, it would improve its competitive advantage, as energy prices will continue to be very volatile over the coming years. As an example, Romania has one of the highest CO2 emissions per kWh electricity produced in Europe. The electricity sector has a lot of possibilities to improve its efficiency by upgrades, development of decentralised (co-generation) capacity and renewable energy sources. Instead, the Romanian energy policy concentrates on more generation capacity in the form of coal and nuclear energy – syphoning away important investment capital from the areas that could really make a difference. A similar story goes for Romanian industries and households / buildings.

Climate change is not a joke. When we see the commitments the EU has made under Kyoto (a 30% emission reduction in 2020), these commitments are the minimum needed to be able to keep global warming under 2 degrees C this century. If the EU does not fulfill this goal, it will send the wrong signal to others. Already such a 2 degrees change will have enormous effects on the planet – including the Romanian economy. There are indications that the recent extreme weather conditions in the country are related to the very moderate climate change we have experienced so far, but they certainly give a good picture of the changes that current climate models are predicting.

The Romanian government has towards us openly refused to work out an energy policy scenario based on a focus on energy efficiency and stimulation of the development of renewable energy sources – a similar scenario as Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) commissioned two years ago to the German institute DLR and that
resulted in the study “Energy [R]evolution – a Sustainable World Energy Outlook” [1]. The Greenpeace / EREC study shows that an energy policy focussing on these two issues is a lot more viable than one of  wait-and-see (business as usual), and economically more advantageous. We do not understand the reluctance of Mr. Vosganian’s department (ministry of economy) to work on such a scenario, other than short term interests.

Some Romanian businesses – like their peers in Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, to name a few countries that face the same pressure – are only looking at CO2 emission trading as a form to make an easy buck. But CO2 emission trading is an instrument to reduce these emissions and to reach the ambitious, but scientifically speaking still quite moderate goals the EU has set itself. It is time that those Romanian business people that pressure the government for lower targets hange their short-term attitude for a more sustainable long term vision in this matter.

For the Romanian government, it would be good to take the recent experiences with trading as a basis for its next steps. Instead of fighting the Commission decision, it could look at auctioning of credits instead of giving them out for free. In that way the CO2 would get a real market price and businesses would get a lot more clarity about their position.

We are convinced that support for the Commission’s efforts to make the carbon trading scheme work should be the number one priority for governments and businesses in Central Europe.”

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2 comments

  1. This so-called expert is an extremist. He is suggesting Romania gives up the Cernavoda nuclear plant, while the only other solution is buying Russian natural gas (given that nobody really managed to use only “renewable” energy).


  2. Dumitru, thanks for your comment. I won’t discuss Haverkamp’s credentials now, you need just google him to see his expertise. But it’s really striking you make this comment today, considering the terrible developments in Japan. There are other solutions apart of nuclear and fossil fuels. We can’t switch to renewables overnight, but this is really the way forward, together with reducing consumption significantly and improving energy efficiency. No nuclear plant is safe, as I hope anyone understands from what is going on at the Japanese plant. The Romanian authorities can certainly do more to support renewables, interest for wind energy in Romania at the moment for instance is considerably bigger than the capacity of our grid–modernizing the grid would help and is a worthwhile investment. Simplifying authorization procedures is another.



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