EU's Climate Resolutions at Stake in Response to Russia
As the EU formulates its response to Putin's invasion, the countries are also grappling with how to cut dependency on Russian oil. Russia supplies one-third of Europe's oil and nearly 40% of its natural gas, reports LA Times, making fossil fuels one of Putin's most prominent geopolitical assets. Cutting ties with Russian oil has now become an issue of European sovereignty. Now countries debate their alternatives: use this as an opportunity to hasten a transition to renewables or expand American fossil fuel production?
France 24: BP, Shell lead Western exodus from Russia as sanctions hit and rouble plummets, March 1, 2022.
Why This Matters
How Europe decides to respond could make or break their transition to renewable energy.
In light of the IPCC report released on Monday warning that a swift transition away from fossil fuels is essential to slow global warming, European nations must decide how to replace Russian oil. The American Petroleum Institute, representing US Big Oil, sees this as an opportunity to expand American fossil fuel exports to Europe. They have asked Biden to reduce restrictions on fracking, a highly polluting process of extraction, to increase oil production and meet increased demand.
Yet this immediate need for new energy sources could provide an opportunity to accelerate the development of alternative energy sources. As David Victor, international relations professor at UC San Diego pointed out, "European investments to scale up those early-stage technologies could help drive down costs for everyone." Energy independence could also help the nation bulk up its geopolitical assets.
There is fear, however, that the high prices during the transition period could create a backlash against renewable energy. Samantha Gross, director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the DC-based Brookings Institution, worries that "People in Europe are hurting. I worry that they will blame the energy transition for the high prices -- and it will bleed away support."
Forbes: Oil Prices Hit New Seven-Year High At $106 Per Barrel As Russian Assault On Kyiv Sparks Supply Fears, March 1, 2022.
Germany Re-Thinking its Energy Sources
Germany is trying to steamroll back its dependence on Russia as quickly as possible. The country halted construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that connected the two countries. Several nations had opposed the pipeline because of the power and influence it would give Russia in Europe, and because of its long-term impact on the climate crisis.
Germany has also considered keeping its nuclear energy plants online, even though they were supposed to be entirely shut off by the end of this year. In the short term, countries like Germany are likely going to have to backtrack on their climate goals, but they do have the opportunity to invest in new technologies to help combat the climate crisis.
CNBC: Germany halts Nord Stream 2 pipeline after Russian troops enter eastern Ukraine, February 22, 2022.