Thursday, November 15, 2012

EU Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050

Speaker: Christian Burgsmüller, Delegation of the EU to the US, Head of Energy, Transport, Environment section

by Juju Manandhar

Rapid climate change in the last century, I believe, is directly related to human activity. Not only are humans creative and adaptive to the changing nature of this earth but we have transformed natural resources stored over millions of years and exploited it into cheap energy for a lavish lifestyle for many of us. I am a firm believer of climate change but there are plenty of people in the United States that won’t budge on climate change. Some want proof and statistics but they cannot be convinced even if you provide the evidence.  We cannot wait until there is no more ice left in the ocean and those non-believers won’t be here to see it; therefore, we must act now to reverse the trend or to at least limit environmental impact.

I give a huge credit to the European Union’s role in leading the path to minimize climate change and to improve lives of inhabitants of this earth. I already see positive impact due to European Union regulation of hazardous chemicals found in consumer products via Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) that sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for a wide range of electrical goods. United States has to do a lot to catch up.

There were plenty of debates on Obama administration’s decision to increase fuel mileage for automobiles. In my view, those who hesitated had deep connections to the auto industry as well as the oil production sector that just didn’t want to change anything other than to increase their bank balance. I deeply support laws to increase automobile fuel efficiency as well as increase investments in public transportation such as high speed rail. These only help reduce our dependent on personal vehicles. I fully support EU’s vision 2020 package for 20% reduction in emissions and 20% increase in energy efficiency. The solution to energy problem is not to drill more and take more out of the earth but to accept a balanced middle path. We should take what is needed while working to reduce our needs by improving efficiency of our machines and reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy. 

I was very enthused about the speaker’s comment on inefficient house construction in the United States. I happen to have built my house in the last few years and I was so disgusted with how it was constructed, I spent my after work-hours and weekends with cocking material to reduce air leaks from plywood seams and fixtures mounted on the ceiling. I upgraded to the highest level of insulating materials for exterior walls. I take satisfaction that my effort provided me with a much smaller energy bill compared to my smaller older house. Yes, if I had enough time and money, I would have thought of my grandchildren living in the same house and could have done even a better job. Only if efficient doors, windows, and insulation materials were driven by laws, the construction companies won’t be driven to use cheap materials. Developers in the United States really don’t have any incentive to improve efficiency and I think this is different to the way people in the European Union think. Our society must be willing to make investment now rather than let our grandkids pay for our failure to improve efficiency and reduce dependence on non-renewable fuels. If United States cannot be a leader in moving towards a low carbon economy, let’s at least follow the European Union’s vision 2020 and vision 2050.

Juju Manandhar has an Industrial Engineering degree from U of I and is currently finishing up his MBA degree. He was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, lives in Champaign, IL, and works for Caterpillar Inc as a Senior Engineering Specialist.

Credits:
1. http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/roadmap/index_en.htm
2. Image of Europe: http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm

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