20 October 2021
Open letter on the occasion of the European Council on 21-22 October 2021 to the Heads of State of Central Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia)
Dear Presidents/Prime Ministers,
Prior to the European Council on 21-22 October 2021, during which you will be discussing the issue of the currently rising energy prices, we – as Central Eastern European (CEE) civil society – are calling on you to increase national ambition for climate action and speed up the energy transition by fully utilising the potentials in energy efficiency as well as renewable energy sources in our countries. It has never been more urgent to reduce energy consumption and scale up the deployment of sustainable renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal. These are the true solutions to tackle the climate crisis, but also the current fossil gas crisis fueling our energy bills.zzWe would like to encourage you to ensure our citizens have access to affordable renewable energy, and in a way that addresses at the same time social, economic, and environmental goals.
The latest landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly tells us that we are facing a climate emergency; we had directly observed dramatic heat waves and floods in Europe last summer, costing numerous lives. The European Green Deal and “Fit for 55” package proposal clearly give a strategic direction for our countries to transform our economies and energy systems. The Central Eastern European countries are, however, not ambitious enough in their climate action and energy transition strategies: instead of fully using the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy they tend to follow the dead end roads of fossil gas and nuclear. CEE countries’ increasing investments in fossil gas infrastructure will soon become stranded assets, the cost of which would be ultimately borne by citizens. Moreover, this dependency undermines the energy security in the region and exposes citizens and industry alike to the risks of fossil fuel price volatility that we are currently witnessing across Europe.
A 100% renewable, decentralised and highly efficient energy system is the only way to achieve a prosperous and sustainable economy, and a healthier environment while creating local jobs with high added value, ensuring greater energy independence and alleviating energy poverty. Instead of paying for coal and fossil gas imports, a renewable energy system keeps consumers’ money in regional economies and protects their purchasing power. The CEE Member States have much bigger domestic renewable energy potentials than presented in national plans and strategies (i.e National Climate and Energy Plans and Long Term Strategies).
CEE countries should leapfrog to renewable energy and become European champions, by putting the Energy Efficiency First principle as a horizontal objective for all economic strategies and energy policies and by fully using their easily accessible domestic renewable energy potential. This will create enormous opportunities and benefits for our societies, economies and the environment, including:
- 1. Increasing energy security. Renewable energy can not only replace imported fossil fuels very quickly at low costs, but also bears an important energy export potential for many CEE countries in view of the increasing demand in neighbouring Western Europe. Distributed renewables diminish the risk of potential blackouts, gives local communities control over energy production and helps them directly benefit from this process.
- 2. Providing economic advantages. Investments in sustainable renewable energy increase competitiveness as solar and wind energy are the cheapest sources of energy, independent of the fuel market. In parallel, energy storage also continues to grow fast and become cheaper. Besides direct energy cost savings, switching to renewable energy will significantly reduce the external environmental and health costs that emerge from fossil fuels, and contribute to the creation of quality local jobs, in particular in rural and peripheral regions.
- 3. Putting people in the heart of the energy transition. People’s engagement in the transition, such as prosumers (self-generators), members of energy communities or investors, is vital and should be strongly supported. Establishing the right regulatory and financial frameworks for the development of community and prosumers’ energy leads to fair and just transition that is beneficial for all, thus building energy security from the bottom up.
We are thus calling on you to:
- Strongly reduce the energy consumption, swiftly phase out all fossil fuels (coal by 2030 latest and gas by 2035), and cover the remaining energy demand by sustainable renewable energy, with the help of different energy storage technologies. Coal should be phased out and replaced with renewable energy sources directly, without choosing false solutions such as “transition fuels” like gas or expensive, unproven or dangerous technologies like carbon capture and storage or nuclear power. The role of hydrogen – that should only be produced from renewables – should not be overestimated and secured for hard-to-abate sectors such as steel and chemicals, aviation, long-distance shipping and heavy-duty road transport;
- To provide right price signals to businesses; environmentally harmful subsidies/fossil fuel subsidies must be removed, external costs must be internalised and the cost of inaction must be taken into account;
Put in place the right policies and regulatory measures, less administrative burden coupled with adequate financing to achieve a 100% renewable, sustainable, and fair energy future which benefits local communities and protects biodiversity. Good governance with dialogue and public involvement is key to achieve this.
For this much needed and urgent energy transition we need you to seize the opportunity, and put in place legal and financial frameworks that would enable different actors to become active participants of this process. And we need everybody to be on board. In order to fully untap the renewable energy potential in the region, public and private businesses need to be part of this process as well as individual homes and community actors. The funding for implementation is already at hand: available EU funds should directly support a fair and inclusive energy transition towards renewables backed with significant energy efficiency measures and different energy storage technologies. And our societies are ready for this change – people clearly want more wind and solar energy in our countries. Perhaps surprisingly, CEE nations are among the most supportive of new wind and solar projects near where they live, according to a polling in 10 European countries by YouGov this autumn, and among the strongest believers that their governments should do more to tackle the climate crisis.
Danita Zarichinova, Ivaylo Popov, Za Zemiata, Bulgaria
Barbora Urbanová, Centre for Transport and Energy, Czechia
Wojciech Szymalski, Foundation Institute for Sustainable Development, Poland
András Lukács, Clean Air Action Group, Hungary
Valentin Sălăgeanu, Greenpeace, Romania
Katarina Jurikova, Greenpeace, Slovakia
On behalf of 41 organisations from Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, listed below. The same letter is being sent to the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cîțu, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
List of Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, and Slovak signatories of the open letter:
- EA Za Zemiata – Friends of the Earth Bulgaria – Екологично сдружение “За Земята”
- Greenpeace Bulgaria – Грийнпийс – България
- Centre for Transport and Energy – Centrum pro dopravu a energetiku
- Society for Sustainable Living/Czech Republic – Společnost pro trvale udržitelný život
- Calla – Association for Preservation of the Environment – Calla – Sdružení pro záchranu prostředí
- Ecumenical Academy – Ekumenická akademie
- NESEHNUTI (Independent Social Ecological Movement)
- Greenpeace Czechia – Greenpeace Česká republika
- Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation – Nadace Partnerství
- Ecological Institute Veronica – Ekologický institut Veronica (ČSOP)
- Centre for Transport and Energy – Centrum pro dopravu a energetiku
- Clean Air Action Group – Levegő Munkacsoport
- NSC-Friends of the Earth Hungary – MTVSZ
- WWF Hungary – WWF Magyarország
- Ecological Assotiation EKO-UNIA – Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne EKO-UNIA
- Institute for Sustainable Development Foundation – Fundacja Instytut na rzecz Ekorozwoju
- Development YES – Open-pit mines NO Foundation – Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE” (RT-ON)
- Polish Ecological Club Mazovian Branch – Polski Klub Ekologiczny Okręg Mazowiecki
- The Alliance of the Associations Polish Green Network – Związek Stowarzyszeń Polska Zielona Sieć
- BOMIASTO – Stowarzyszenie BOMIASTO
- Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczno-Kulturalne “Wspólna Ziemia”
- Greenpeace Poland – Fundacja Greenpeace Polska
- WWF Poland – WWF Polska
- Greenpeace Romania – Greenpeace România
- Bankwatch Romania – Bankwatch România
- 2 Celsius
- Romania in Transition – România în Tranzitie
- Permaculture Research Institute of Romania – Institutul de Cercetare în Permacultura din România
- Center of Environmental Activities – Centrum environmentálnych aktivít
- Eviana – Eviana
- Centre for sustainable alternatives (CEPTA) – Centrum pre trvaloudržateľné alternatívy (CEPTA)
- Greenpeace Slovakia – Greenpeace Slovensko
- Slovak Climate Iniciative – Slovenská klimatická iniciatíva
- Extinction Rebellion Slovakia – Extinction Rebellion Slovensko
- Raptor Protection of Slovakia – Ochrana dravcov na Slovensku
- Tatry Civic Association – Občianske združenie TATRY
- Concerned mothers – Znepokojene matky
- SOSNA association – SOSNA o.z.
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