Europe’s coal push harming climate goals, warns US envoy
By Brian Beary in Washington | Tuesday 27 January 2009
Europe must slow down in constructing coal-fired power plants - particularly in Eastern Europe - or its leadership on climate change will be compromised, C. Boyden Gray, the US’ outgoing special envoy for EU affairs and Eurasian energy, has warned. The move towards coal will force the EU to meet its CO
2 emission reduction goals by buying offsets from China, Gray told an audience at Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, on 26 January. But doing this will make it impossible to link up the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with the future ETS that US President Barack Obama wants to set up, he said, as the US Congress will limit the amount of offsets that can be bought abroad to 15-20%.
Gray, who is returning to his law practice now that his three-year stint as ambassador-special envoy is over, said his “dream” was that the US would raise its gas production levels and export liquefied natural gas to the EU to help Europe meet its climate obligations. This would also make Europe less dependent on Russian gas producer Gazprom. Gray had some parting words of advice for the European Commission’s Competition Directorate-General: “If the Commission is breaking up Microsoft, then it should treat Gazprom the same way. As a lawyer, I cannot see any difference between the two.” He said the EU should also spend money to connect up national power grids as this would enable it to forge a stronger, more unified stance towards Russia. “Things are trending in the right direction here,” he felt. Gray said Germany’s elections in 2010, more than the European elections in 2009, were key as Berlin’s close ties with Moscow were the source of the problem.
NO ROLE FOR NATO
Energy security is essentially an economic issue, one where there was “no role” for NATO, he argued. He praised Russia for treating a host of problems - Iran, energy security, missile defence - as a whole, unlike the EU and US, which have an unfortunate tendency “to compartmentalise” and be “too NATO-centric”. On a lighter note, he said during his time in Brussels “I felt like I was being stalked by the Russians - they always knew where I was and what i was doing”. While Moscow’s interference - for example in Turkmenistan - is making the realisation of the EU’s Nabucco pipeline project more difficult, Gray felt the obstacles were not insurmountable. “If the EU opened its energy chapter with Turkey in the accession talks, things could warm up.” Europe should also encourage the private sector more to invest in Nabucco, he suggested, by providing financing to cover the risks they are taking on.
Welcoming the interest incoming US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed in promoting European energy security, Gray also had some advice for her. “She should merge the functions dealing with energy and climate change in her department because you cannot do anything on energy security without looking at climate change as well.”