The EU’s sixth sanctions package against Russia, in response to its war on Ukraine, includes a proposed embargo on oil imports from the country by the end of the year. The bloc, which has historically relied on Russian imports for nearly a quarter of its total energy availability, is becoming more ambitious in its resolve to pressure the belligerent country to end its aggression through economic means. Successfully pulling the plug on Russia’s war chest, however, comes with the caveat that Europe’s own energy needs risk going unfulfilled. Finding alternative power sources to keep the continent’s economy afloat are a top priority.
The need for power is increasingly seeing a return to the fuel that kicked off the industrial revolution at the long-term expense of the climate. In Germany, the EU’s largest economy as well as its biggest buyer of Russian fuels, March saw hard coal and lignite burn for power production far above historical levels. Most of this was lignite, among the few fuels which the EU does not rely on imports for, given that half of global production comes from within the continent. While the crash of carbon prices in March may have made coal burn financially more viable that month, coal burn remained substantial in April despite warming weather and the recovery of carbon prices to historic high levels. With Germany likely to miss its 2022 and 2023 climate targets even before the war’s escalation, the increased coal burn puts these targets even further out of reach.
With recent Russian gas supply shutdowns highlighting the unpredictability of the energy security situation in the EU, and with signs of a recession starting to become visible, will more and more climate ambitions fall by the wayside?