Climate expert Jos Delbeke: ‘We’re running out of time’
Climate expert, Jos Delbeke, warns that we’re running out of time climate wise and that transport is one of the big problems in these. From February 2010 until the beginning of this year civil servant Delbeke was Director General (DG) Climate at the European Commission and as such the architect of the European climate policy.
Delbeke (64) had to make room for another DG in the beginning of this year but stayed on as senior adviser of EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, until now. From now on he will lecture at the universities of Louvain and Firenze and finish his book about climate and energy policy, his field of expertise. Time to speak with him.
Last month there was the alarming IPCC report on climate, did it surprise you?
“Not at all. Today we are already past one degree of global warming, we absolutely have to avoid two degrees, that would be a catastrophe, not only because of flooding and droughts but also because of the political instability caused by the big players arguing about who has the right to have possible new resources.”
Is a CO2 reduced society in 2050 realistic?
“For me it is, because there’s also some positive evolution. Car manufacturers are going electric, new techniques to produce steel, concrete, aluminium and other chemical products are much less CO2 intensive. Those have to be promoted in the industry to create a new infrastructure for our cities.”
Some say that nuclear power will still be necessary, at least in a transition phase. Do you agree?
“Our aim has to be 100% renewable energy but in the transition period we have to take into account that nuclear power or gas power stations will still be necessary. If we can keep our existing nuclear power plants a little longer without security risks we should do it, but I’m a bigger fan of gas power stations as a transition.”
They’re more polluting and we are putting our energetic independence in the hands of Putin, critics say.
“That’s not necessarily so. You can use the carbon capture and storage technique and gas is available from many sources, not only Russia, which until now has proved itself a loyal and reliable supplier. In the UK they want to build new nuclear power plants but they will be built by the Chinese. Is that independence?”
Politicians will have to choose. Are our authorities doing this?
“Not enough. I’ll take Belgium as an example. Transport is a huge problem here, but our politicians are afraid to take the obvious decisions. Company cars (especially so-called salary cars) have to disappear, road toll has to be installed to finance other means of transport… but nobody dares to take the right decisions. Not illogical with four different energy ministers. Climate and energy have to be become federal decision matters again. I have to admit that Flemish Minister Tommelein is doing good things to promote renewable energy.”
In December there’s a climate summit in Katowice (Poland). Do you have high hopes?
“Katowice will be a technical meeting, there will be no major political decisions. That’s not necessary at the moment, the aim has to be to realize what has been promised for 2030.”
Is the EU still the leader in this?
“Our aim for 2020 was to have 20% fewer emissions of greenhouse gases compared to 1990. We’re doing better already. To have already 20% of renewable energy in 2020 will be a close call, but it’s possible. The problem lies in our energy efficiency. This has to do with a lot of small decisions to be made, not in the least by the individual citizen, and such a change needs time. Unfortunately we’re running out of time very quickly.”