Russian Energy Crisis Gives Coal a Bitter Comeback

Russian Energy Crisis Gives Coal a Bitter Comeback

Across Europe, coal is making its bitter return as governments scramble to fill the void left by Russian gas and oil, shunned following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Even members of Germany's green party have warned that the burning of coal may extend past the 2030 deadline to phase it out. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested a revival of coal mining in front of the House of Commons last Wednesday, stating, "We can all be proud of the way in which we reduced CO2 emissions in this country, but plainly it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, when we have our own domestic resources."

WION: Embracing the ‘dirty fuel’ | Russia’s gas choke sends Europe back to coal, June 24, 2022.

DW: Germany reconsiders coal phase out due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, March 15, 2022.

Why This Matters

As long as countries rely on coal, the climate crisis will not be solved. When world leaders convened in Bonn, Germany last month, US Climate Envoy John Kerry warned as much, saying that if countries extend their deadlines for the phase-out of coal, "we are cooked.”

It isn’t just coal. Countries previously working to reduce their reliance on oil and gas are now looking to expand -- Europe is building more terminals to receive US-produced and imported gas. In a joint statement, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with other European lawmakers, warned that this regression could be catastrophic, writing that the "further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe is destined to set us back.”

Full-Steam Ahead At G7 Summit

Despite the warnings, when the G7 opened on Sunday, many leaders refused to change their tune. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and other European representatives continued to call for more financing for fossil fuel projects, which were previously to be cut off by 2023. During a joint statement with G7 leaders, Draghi told reporters that Italy had "short-term needs that will require large investments in gas infrastructure.”

Still, President Biden and German Prime Minister Ursula von der Leyen are keeping climate goals in mind, releasing a joint statement Monday morning that reiterated their goal to reduce fossil fuel dependence on Russia, while staying on track to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The pair proposed distributing smart thermostats across Europe and the US, saying that reduced energy demand by consumers would be key.

DW: Live | G7 Leaders joint press conference (1/2), June 26, 2022.

DW: Live | G7 Leaders joint press conference (2/2), June 26, 2022.