It is impossible to separate the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the global energy crisis and the eventual threat to climate change. This act of Russia can give a major setback on achieving net-zero for carbon.
The Russia Ukraine conflict is also bleak economically, but it may serve as a catalyst for decarbonization in Europe. It can force governments to increase their investments in zero-emission renewable energy sources and home and electric vehicles more aggressively. This can eventually help the faster transition to achieve the net-zero goals within the larger Climate Change action plan.
The world leaders met at the Glasgow COP26 summit three months ago and pledged ambitious cuts in fossil fuel consumption. As Russia is the top energy supplier for Europe, the debate about the threat of climate change has eclipsed discussions of the pivotal transition to renewable energy. Oil prices are climbing toward $100 a barrel while Russia is threatening a major confrontation with the West over Ukraine.
The preface to eminent threat
There have been concerns that leaders may relegate climate change to an afterthought in light of a major humanitarian crisis. Arctic states will find it harder to work together on addressing climate change issues amid the Russia Ukraine war. And combating oil pollution getting increased at a dreadful rate in the Arctic.
Alongside, enforcing the Western sanctions against Russian economic activity. Considering that Arctic environmental issues have global implications, I hope other Arctic states can continue working with the Arctic Council.
Policymakers may behave in a backward fashion in efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels that spew deadly greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in response to the renewed emphasis on energy independence and national security. Increasing energy prices could prompt governments to set less emphasis on sustainable energy and renewables, which would be the wrong course of action.
There has likely never been a clear path to transitioning to a clean energy future. Since the first climate summit, there have been five more, all of which have failed to achieve goals. This latest setback may just be the most recent in a succession of missed opportunities.
Russia and its importance over Oil, Gas, and Coal
More than a third of Europe’s natural gas and 25 percent of its oil comes from Russia. Europe’s deliveries have slowed dramatically in recent months, while reserves have fallen to 31 percent of capacity.
There are two main reasons why Russia matters for global energy supplies. First, it is the 2nd largest gas manufacturer after the United States and accounts for 17% of global gas output. It is also the world’s 3rd largest oil producer and accounted for 12% of global oil production in 2020.
The official statistics from the United States show that Russian energy supplies are especially important in Europe. The E.U. countries receive around 70% of the country’s oil and gas exports, from Russia.
Its remaining oil exports go to China (31%), South Korea (6%), Belarus (6%), Japan (2%), the US (1%) & other parts of Eurasia, Asia & Oceania. Belarus and China account for approximately 8% of Russia’s gas exports.
Why Ukraine’s gas potential matters for Europe?
In the larger context of European energy security, Ukraine is an important player. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies, but the Ukrainian pipeline corridor supplies gas to almost 15 European countries.
Ukrainian gas transport systems have one of the longest total lengths in the world, totaling 38,600 km, despite security issues in the region. Linked to the European gas grid, the system includes the gas networks of the neighboring countries of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.
Due to these facts, Ukraine’s integration into the EU energy market is crucial for regional energy stability in terms of gas, electricity, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and nuclear energy.
A fact of truth: Russian gas cannot be easily replaced
As it is imperative to prepare for the worst-case scenarios, the European Union should double down on renewable energy to reduce dependency on Russian gas, but there is no substitute for energy security as of now.
Analysts see this as an uphill climb that is not very timely given the current geopolitical climate. Could Europe replace a portion of its demand with its own natural gas, at least temporarily?
As Europe’s second-largest supplier after Russia, Norway is already at full capacity. A short-term fix might be to procure LNG from major producers like the US and Qatar until renewables became mainstream.
At the moment, the LNG supply-demand market is extremely tight, and cargoes of LNG cannot be easily obtained. Europe, on the other hand, could partially reactivate recently decommissioned coal plants. Even if it would undermine its emissions goals. And by doing so it would be even more controversial than clinging to gas.
Taking advantage of the transition to a greener and less carbon-heavy power marketplace, European countries have gradually decommissioned coal infrastructure in recent years. Nevertheless, as the regional energy crisis shows, coal remains an important part of the power mix, particularly when other sources of energy are unreliable, and that is unlikely to change soon.
Yet, environmental activists and European policy-makers who have worked on climate change for years are worried that barring coal from even a short-term priority could set back Europe’s move away from fossil fuels. According to the EU, reducing natural gas consumption by more than 25% from 2015 levels is necessary to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This Russia and Ukraine war will result in devastating impacts.
The Closing Note
Invest in renewable energy as soon as possible and we can stop making Putin very rich in the long run. The only way to guarantee stable, affordable energy for your citizens is to invest in renewable energy.
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