Wind turbine behind photovoltaic system

Study calls for investment boost in the EU

This means that 87 billion euros or around 40 percent more would have to be invested every year than in the period from 2016 to 2020. “The most important investment areas for low-carbon infrastructure in Europe are renewable power plants, electricity grids and railway infrastructure,” says co-author Lena Klaaßen.

For their meta-study, the researchers analyzed more than 56 studies that had already been published and came to the conclusion that the largest leap in investment for the next fifteen years and thus the diversion of established financial flows is already necessary for the period 2021 to 2025 in order to be on the way to net null goal with sufficient speed, according to a broadcast from the German Science Media Center (SMC).

According to the information provided, the authors of the study identify “a necessary increase in investment for almost all technologies”. The only exceptions to this are conventional power plants and oil and gas infrastructure. Power plants for renewable energies, like power lines and energy storage, are listed as the largest chunks with a plus of 24 billion each. The calculated need for additional annual investments in rail infrastructure is even higher at 25 billion euros.

As part of the national commitment that all countries have agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU promises a reduction in climate-relevant emissions of 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. The net zero target should be achieved by 2050. Net zero means reducing climate-damaging emissions as much as possible and removing unavoidable emissions from the atmosphere, for example by planting trees that can absorb carbon dioxide.

Funding is possible, says Felix Creutzig from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). “If there are (in Germany, note) 200 billion euros for a gas and electricity price brake – largely a subsidy for fossil fuels – then there can also be 87 billion euros for future investments,” he says. Instead of investing several billion euros a year in the construction of new trunk roads and motorways, the money could be invested in rail and bicycle traffic. Among other things, he calls for a location- and time-dependent car toll.

“Of course a bitter pill”

Liquidity can “certainly be created”, but what is still missing is the political will, according to Creutzig. Creutzig did not question the importance of the message conveyed by the ETH study to SMC: “The previous budget of European countries is not future-proof”, and “this was not previously documented with solid figures”.

The fact that much more money is needed is known and therefore not surprising, “but the quantification is still very helpful and relevant,” says Michael Pahle from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Now it’s up to politicians to communicate “honestly” that the transformation will be expensive – even if that’s a bitter pill politically, of course.”

time is of the essence

Sascha Samadi from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy states to SMC that meta-studies do not aim to “provide groundbreaking new insights”. The work, prepared by ETH Zurich, evaluates “many important studies from the past few years and provides a good overview” of the investment needs expected in these studies.

In absolute figures, the investments now in the room would sound “of course very high”. With a view to economic performance, Samadi believes it is entirely possible for Europe to “increase investments to the necessary level, even in the short term”.

According to Martin Weibelzahl from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology in Bayreuth, the study once again emphasizes that “climate change is not waiting for us and that we must quickly convert our infrastructure in a future-oriented manner”. It is therefore also of central importance that the right economic incentives are set now, “so that investments can be made exactly where they are needed and have an impact as quickly as possible. Otherwise we’ll run out of time.”

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