Scrapping the atom makes it tougher to keep climate change in check.
The contradictions in Germany’s energy policy are coming home to roost.
It’s struggling to balance efforts to combat climate change while at the same time shutting down its nuclear power plants.
The difficulty of doing both things at the same time were starkly exposed by a United Nations science report released Monday, which found that if the world is to hit a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the role of low-emitting nuclear energy is likely to rise significantly.
That’s not something the backers of Germany’s ambitious shift to renewable energy — called the Energiewende — want to hear, and the strains of holding on to all the different strands of the policy are beginning to show.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is being buffeted by tensions between the country’s environmentalists and industrialists.
Germany’s green ambitions took a battering from the U.N.’s scientific body tasked with reviewing climate science.
Germany rushed to announce it will phase out all of the country’s reactors by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. But the country is still dependent on coal to generate a third of its electricity.
It’s on track to blow past its 2020 emissions reduction targets; instead of cutting greenhouse gas pollution by 40 percent it will only fall by 32 percent.
The need to keep the lights on while burning coal is fueling the rage of anti-coal environmentalists, who scaled the country’s embassy in London on Monday; thousands of campaigners have also been protesting the expansion of a coal mine near Hamburg.
But Merkel is also under pressure from unions and influential industrial sectors like cars, which is prompting Germany to push an increasingly tough line in EU climate talks.
Berlin is leading resistance to upping the bloc’s 2030 climate from a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45 percent, and is joining with a group of Central European countries to fight for less ambitious cuts to carbon dioxide emissions from cars — both positions that will be decided by EU countries on Tuesday in preparation for COP24 climate talks.
Germany’s green ambitions took a battering from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the U.N. scientific body tasked with reviewing climate science.
Despite the pledges made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the panel found the world is on track to get warmer by 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. The agreement’s goal of limiting warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius would wreak major environmental havoc, and hitting a more benign 1.5-degree target would require a radical transformation of the world’s economy and energy production in just a few years.
The U.N. report reviewed 85 scientific studies and found that “nuclear power increases its share” in most of the pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2050. The median estimate sees nuclear power boost its role in the global energy supply by more than half between 2020 and 2050.
The news was greeted with joy by the nuclear lobby.
“The IPCC report highlights the proven qualities of nuclear energy as a highly effective method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Agneta Rising, director of the World Nuclear Association.
But the scientists cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “In many pathways, nuclear power does play a role,” said Joeri Rogelj, one of the report’s authors and a researcher at the Austrian International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, but “it was not part of the assessment whether nuclear power is a requirement” to keep to the 1.5-degree goal.
Rapidly ramping up nuclear power faces pretty strong headwinds, the report authors warned, noting the average time to build a reactor is between 10 and 19 years: “The current deployment pace of nuclear energy is constrained by social acceptability in many countries due to concerns over risks of accidents.”
There was no sign that any of that nuclear nuance is being picked up in Berlin.
Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze doubled down on the country’s current policies, saying in response to the IPCC report: “We cannot not lose any more time on climate protection. The next few years are crucial.”
But Germany’s nuclear dogma is being questioned by other EU countries.
Belgium has pledged to dump nuclear power by 2025, but the risks of a rapid exit from a power source that generates half of the country’s electricity are being made starkly clear this fall. Belgium faces possible blackouts when nuclear operator Electrabel shuts down six of the country’s seven reactors for maintenance and cleaning operations.
“The rushed and improvised exit from nuclear power that some support is not our policy,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told his parliament on Monday. “Recent events prove that pretending otherwise is a pure illusion.”
Elsewhere in Europe, plans to denuclearize are being viewed with growing skepticism.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected on a program to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear by a third by 2025, has now backtracked, and he pointed to Germany’s patchy record as a reason.
“I don’t idolize nuclear energy at all. But I think you have to pick your battles. My priority in France, Europe and internationally is CO2 emissions and [global] warming,” Macron told France 2 television in an interview in December. “What did the Germans do when they suddenly decided to shut down all nuclear? They developed a lot more renewables than us, but they also massively reopened thermal and coal. They harmed their CO2 footprint, it wasn’t good for the planet. So I won’t do that.”
Other governments are cautious about making hard-to-keep nuclear phase-out pledges.
Spain’s new Socialist government is mulling shutting nuclear power plants when they reach their end-of-life, but Teresa Ribera — the minister in charge of energy and environment — is weighing that goal against the impact this could have on prices, security of supply, and Spain’s climate ambitions.
“I belong to a responsible government, which is enormously committed to an energy transition that has to keep in mind the spirit of the Paris Agreement,” she told POLITICO in the summer.
Sweden reversed its no-nuclear commitment in 2010, and atomic power still generates a third of its electricity.
The U.K. is building new nuclear power, as are Finland and France. Further east, the nuclear sentiment is even stronger. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania are all looking to build new reactors.
Poland gets about 80 percent of its power from coal, something that the government recognizes won’t be possible for much longer thanks to EU policies and the rising cost of emissions. By 2050, coal will only account for about 50 percent of power production, with the rest being made up by renewables and — the government hopes — Poland’s first nuclear power station.
“Atomic energy means zero emissions electric generation,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski said in a newspaper interview earlier this year. “Poland must have the atom.”
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.