EU Green Deal Should Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus, Czech PM Says

The Czech Republic’s prime minister, Andrej Babis, has said
the European Union should abandon the
Green Deal
and focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus,
in an early sign of policy battles ahead.

Announced in December, Europe’s
Green New Deal
 seeks to invest €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion)
on the road to making the EU economy net zero by 2050. This would
include a huge offshore wind build-out, accelerated electrification
of heat and transport, the development of large-scale carbon
capture projects and hydrogen storage and infrastructure.

But from the start, the plan came under heavy scrutiny from the
coal-heavy Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and the COVID-19
crisis appears to have opened a new avenue for attack.

“Europe should forget about the Green Deal now and focus on
the coronavirus instead,” Babis
told reporters
on Monday.

Hungary and the Czech Republic had called for more support to
transition away from fossil fuels. As it stands, funding for that
process totals
€100 billion
.

An excuse for a green stimulus?

Even in these early days of the global pandemic, questions are 
being asked about whether the crisis will help to accelerate the
push toward lower-carbon energy resources or slow it down. The
price of oil has fallen to multi-year lows with no end in sight,
potentially
changing the way the oil majors
think about their future.

“This whole crisis could eventually springboard a greater push
towards a green economy,” said Brian Gaylord, principal analyst for
Latin America and Southern Europe at Wood Mackenzie Power &
Renewables.

“After the economic impact of this virus, we’ll need to try and
kickstart the economy in some way. You’ll see a potential way of
trying to make the economies really push more drastic, more
concerted efforts towards energy transition.”

But for now, Gaylord said, governments are “just trying to keep
the lights on.”

The International Monetary Fund has issued
three recommendations
to protect economies against the impacts
of the virus. It calls on banks to be flexible in their approach to
debtors, central banks to pull their various levers including
slashing interest rates and finally, for wide-ranging stimulus
packages.

Europe’s Green Deal could provide something for a stimulus
package to coalesce around. But as the remarks from the Czech
prime minister make clear, there will be an instinct from others in
government in a different direction.

“Unfortunately, renewable energy rollouts and decarbonization
plans risk to be slowed down or delayed, as governments are
addressing other and more urgent priorities,” Daniel Atzori,
Research Partner at Cornwall Insight, said in press statement.

“Hopefully, decarbonization will be a key element of economic
stimulus packages that will be implemented during and after this
crisis. The fact that interest rates are going to remain low will
help renewable projects to access low-cost financing.”

BP sticking to its net-zero guns

BP is perhaps the highest-profile company undergoing its own
energy transition. It is currently facing the twin crises of
collapsed oil prices and COVID-19, which is also depressing demand.
Last month it revealed its intention to work towards being
net zero
by 2050, including the impact of the emissions from
its products (Scope 3 emissions). Details on how the company will
get there are planned to be laid out in September.

In a blog on LinkedIn, CEO Bernard Looney said this priority
would
not be dropped
.

“Some people have also questioned how the current
circumstances affect our purpose and net zero ambition. I can
understand why they might ask that. But to me, I think what is
going on now only reaffirms the need to reinvent our company. And
we will.”

Additional reporting by Jason Deign in Barcelona.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
EU Green Deal Should Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus, Czech PM Says