The Power Plant plenary heard yesterday that climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are three entities of a triple crisis – and they all need to be addressed.
These were just some of the comments made by Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius during the discussion on Day 2.
Expressing concern about the loss of “irreplaceable” ecosystem services, Commissioner Sinkevičius added: “You can get to net zero by 2050, but that’s going to mean nothing if we will have oceans destroyed, forests cut, and soils that cannot produce.”
The plenary heard that biodiversity is under threat across the European Union. Intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and unsustainable forestry have left 81% of habitats in poor condition, while significant damage is being done to ecosystems.
Moreover, climate change will also do huge damage to the natural world – it is expected to be the main driver of biodiversity loss by 2050.
But with the EU aiming to restore degraded ecosystems by 2030 and cut emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990, we have an opportunity to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change together.
Eurelectric has been working with Danish architectural firm Effekt to identify projects that increase renewable power generation and infrastructure while protecting and regenerating biodiversity. This resulted in the Power Plant project, which was launched today.
Indeed, during his keynote, Patrick Graichen, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, highlighted the need to solve the conflict between space, land, and renewables.
He warned: “We must ramp up the installation rates for wind and solar, otherwise we’ll have to import energy from outside the EU.”
And Jochen Hauff, Director Corporate Strategy, Energy Policy & Sustainability, BayWa r.e. AG, stressed the urgency, saying: “Climate change is not going to wait for us to figure out how to simplify permitting.”
On the topic of renewables, Commissioner Sinkevičius said that while “we all agree that renewables are the future”, the permitting process needs to be sped up. He added: “I think it is very important to look for synergies, ensure that we have very clear areas where we can expand and we can do that very quickly, but also keep that balance with nature well-preserved. I think it’s not the hardest task to achieve.”
Kristian Ruby, Secretary General, Eurelectric, who was moderating the event, echoed this sentiment, saying: “Instead of having a polarised discussion around these technologies we need to look at how we can integrate. It’s not about energy policy anymore. It’s about agricultural policies, infrastructure, finances…”
MEP Jutta Paulus emphasised a similar point. “Make agriculture more climate and biodiversity friendly – the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) needs improvements,” she said.
Finally, Marianne Kleiberg, Regional MD Europe, The Nature Conservancy, who made the concluding remarks at the session, described Europe as a “pioneer in conservation policy”. She added: “The world is looking to Europe and Europe is exporting its ideas to the world…. That’s why the REPowerEU plan must be complemented by the Nature Restoration Law.”