What are the events that have shaped our past energy use?

This was the question asked of the sixty participants of the ENABLE.EU workshop, and the timeline below reflects some of the events mentioned. The list is not exhaustive but rather highlights the commitments of a wide number of actors at different territorial levels to change our dependency on fossil fuels.

1986
1986

CHERNOBYL CHANGES PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF NUCLEAR ENERGY RISKS.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry, causing a huge release of radionuclides over large areas of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and changing public perception of nuclear energy risks in many EU countries.  For example, the Chernobyl disaster strongly impacted the vote on an Italian referendum that proposed a moratorium on the building of nuclear plants in Italy (1987). More recently, Japan's Fukushima incident provoked a similar reaction in European public opinion (2011).

1987
1987

BUILDING A COMMON GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE RISKS.

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." “Our Common Future” from the Brundtland Commission creates a notion of sustainable development as well as a positive narrative of the planet’s future. The Brundtland report lays the foundation for the works of the Hearth Summit in 1992 and, more recently, for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. Since 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports have promoted international scientific collaboration to assess the risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and how to prevent it.

1992
1992

EU ENERGY CONSUMPTION STANDARDS, LABELLING SCHEMES AND BUILDING PERFORMANCE.

Energy consumption per household has gone down since 1990, mainly due to improvements in energy efficiency. This reduction was supported by EU directives that established energy consumption labelling schemes; set minimum energy efficiency standards for a variety of products, such as boilers, household appliances, lighting and televisions (eco-design); and developed a common evaluation framework for building energy performance. These directives were recently amended as part of the “Clean energy for all Europeans package” (2019).

2005
2005

FROM KYOTO TO PARIS: GLOBAL BINDING COMMITMENTS TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS.

Signed in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in 2005, saw 192 countries pledge to reduce six greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to a “level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" (Article 2). Based on shared but differentiated responsibilities, the Protocol provided a global framework for internationally binding targets to reduce GHG emissions. The agreement was followed up by the Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015 but will enter into force in 2020 and which has provided a basis for the EU establishment of a range of legislative targets and regulatory, market-based and informational tools, strategies, and actions. The most prominent of these are the 20-20-20 objectives, which aim at a 20% cut in EU GHGs emissions, a 20% share of renewable energy in total energy output, and a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020.

2005
2005

CITIES AND REGIONS PROMOTE THE TRANSITION TO LOW CARBON.

Since 2005, the “Transition Towns” network has connected local initiatives and crowd-sourced solutions able to promote a social, economic and environmental shift in communities. Similarly, the C40 Cities initiative has connected 94 of the world’s greatest cities and 700+ million citizens to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future. Since 2008, the EU Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy has brought together 7,000+ local and regional authorities across 57 countries, who are committed to achieving and exceeding the EU’s climate and energy targets.

2010
2010

INDUSTRIES WORK TOWARDS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Industry is taking more and more action to move towards sustainable development and a circular economy. In 2019, the World Economic Forum recognized 11 companies that are leading the way to a circular economy, out of 450 applications received from 45 countries. One of the leaders, the French-based Schneider Electric, specialises in energy management and automation and employs 142,000 people in more than 100 countries. According to the Forum, “The company uses recycled content and recyclable materials in its products, prolongs product lifespan through leasing and pay-per-use, and has introduced take-back schemes into its supply chain. Circular activities now account for 12% of its revenues and it will save 100,000 metric tons of primary resources from 2018-2020”. Vai a weforum.org.

2015
2015

SCHOOLS STRIKE TO SAVE THE CLIMATE

During the Paris negotiations, a Climate Strike was organized by more than 50,000 students in over 100 countries asking for a shift toward clean energy, reduction of fossil fuels and help for climate refugees. The school strike became an international movement of school students, led by Greta Thunberg, and on 15 March 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call to strike and protest.