A total fossil fuel lockdown is needed now

A total fossil fuel lockdown is needed now

The €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund agreed yesterday by the EU is inadequate to tackle the climate crisis, experts say.

While the deal retains the bloc’s commitment to become “climate neutral” by 2050, fossil fuels are far from banned, with hazy conditions around the usage of pollutants and Poland allowed access to half the money in the green transition fund without having to sign the pledge for net zero emissions by 2050.

Activist Greta Thunberg has accused the bloc of not taking the crisis seriously, while climate experts said there is insufficient legislation to stop the use of fossil fuels.

A recent report by REN21, a thinktank focused on renewable energy policy, found that unless all industry sectors make the switch to renewable energy sources, the climate crisis will not be averted.

Rana Adib, REN21’s Executive Director, commented: “Year after year, we report success after success in the renewable power sector. Indeed, renewable power has made fantastic progress. It beats all other fuels in growth and competitiveness. Many national and global organisations already cry victory. But our report sends a clear warning: The progress in the power sector is only a small part of the picture. And it is eaten up as the world’s energy hunger continues to increase. If we do not change the entire energy system, we are deluding ourselves.”


The report shows that in the heating, cooling and transport sectors, little has changed in the last 10 years. Meanwhile although energy-related CO2 emissions are expected to fall by up to 8 per cent this year due to Covid-19, emissions for 2019 were the highest ever, and the fall will only be temporary. “Even if the lockdowns were to continue for a decade, the change would not be sufficient” Adib said. “At the current pace, with the current system and current market rules, it would take the world forever to come anywhere near a no-carbon system.”

Adib warns that many recovery packages currently being proposed are locking countries and organisations into continued use of fossil fuels. “Some directly promote natural gas, coal or oil. Others, though claiming a green focus, build the roof and forget the foundation,” she says. “Take electric cars and hydrogen, for example. These technologies are only green if powered by renewables.”

Failing to switch to a low-carbon economy post-lockdown would represent a huge missed opportunity.

The report also states that green recovery measures, such as investment in renewables and building efficiency, are more cost-effective than traditional measures and will yield more returns – they deliver jobs, energy sovereignty, increasing access to energy in developing countries, as well as reducing emissions and air pollution; the fossil fuel industry by comparison is a lot more costly and empowers big producers rather than citizens and communities.

“When spending stimulus money, we have to decide: Do we want an energy system that serves some or a system that serves many?” Adib says. “But it’s not only about money. We must end any kind of support to the fossil economy, particularly when it comes to heating, cooling and transport. Governments need to radically change the market conditions and rules and demonstrate the same leadership as during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

To read the report visit Renewables 2020 Global Status Report

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