The Russian attack on Ukraine has been devastating on both a humanitarian and economic level. Yet, the way in which it has highlighted the EU’s reliance on Russian gas seems like it may have positive climate implications. More than a third of the EU’s gas supply came from Russia before the beginning of the crisis, causing the EU to be highly dependent on Russia to meet its energy needs. However, in response to EU sanctions and the EU’s condemnation of the Russia-Ukraine war, Russia has sold less gas to the EU than normal. This has contributed to gas prices soaring and a feeling of panic amongst households and businesses. Additionally, Germany’s decision to halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has clear implications for Europe’s ability to meet its future energy needs given that it was set to export natural gas from Russia to central Europe. As a result, the EU has recognized the need to invest more in renewable energy resources as a way to meet its energy demands.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has directly noted the importance of Europe moving away from fossil fuel use and has stated: “We have to diversify our suppliers and massively invest in renewables. This is a strategic investment in our energy independence.” She has also posited that even if Russia decides to fully cut off its gas supply to Europe in light of the sanctions that the EU has imposed on Russia, the EU will find a way to get enough gas in the short-term, and she stressed the importance of “doubling down on renewables” in the medium and long term.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans has also delineated the importance of dashing “into renewables at lightning speed,” as it is only through renewable energy that the EU will consistently have its own source of “clean, cheap, endless energy.” According to Euractiv, this response has further been mirrored by lawmakers in the European Parliament who recognize the need to increase renewable use given the current energy crisis, as well as the potential for future energy crises. There is a general consensus that actions to reach the European Green Deal need to be accelerated so that a greater number of renewable and low-carbon gases can be released and the EU can meet its future energy needs.
Germany has already announced plans to increase its energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in order to meet gas shortage challenges and has even stated that it may delay the closure of its remaining nuclear power stations. Thus, the Russia-Ukraine crisis should have a positive impact on the performance indicators discussed in the previous post in the medium and long term: the EU’s total installed offshore wind power capacity should increase, the EU’s total solar power capacity should increase and air emissions for greenhouse gases in the EU should decrease.
However, according to Euractiv, the European Parliament also recognizes that the EU’s investment in renewables is not yet at a level that is conducive to renewables satisfying Europe’s energy needs. There are also currently a number of permitting issues in place that are blocking the generation of renewable energy facilities. Therefore, short-term measures are also being taken by the EU that are not as environmentally friendly as a means to get the EU through gas shortages this winter and in the coming years. The European Parliament has discussed creating a legal requirement for EU countries to ensure a minimum level of gas storage by September 30 each year in order to prevent future potential winter shortages. In order to get through this winter, the European Parliament has also discussed diversifying its supply away from Russian pipeline gas to liquified natural gas, which is mainly currently imported from the United States and Qatar.
Therefore, while, in the long term, the Russian invasion has encouraged the EU to more rapidly achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by increasing renewable energy production, in the short term, it likely will do little to reduce emissions as the EU searches for other ways to obtain and store gas.
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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Manager Brittany Demogenes
Image Credit: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-announces-humanitarian-aid-worth-554m-in-response-to-ukrainian-crisis/2522518