Ukraine war: Europe left scrambling to find a way to wean itself off a heavy reliance on Russian gas | Climate News

As a humanitarian crisis grows in Ukraine, an energy crisis grows across the planet.

And if it isn’t handled carefully, the response will threaten the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact and subsequently global targets.

Oil and gas prices are skyrocketing.

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Is this the answer to the energy crisis?

American talk of boycotting Russian energy prompted Moscow to threaten to turn off its major gas pipeline to Europe.

Now governments committed to net zero targets, including the UK, are under pressure from two opposing forces, both using the conflict in Ukraine as proof positive they are right.

On the one hand many argue that the only way to protect people from future volatility is to move away from fossil fuels faster – to invest more in renewables and nuclear.

On the other there’s the dash for gas camp, insisting that securing better domestic fossil fuel energy supplies, no matter the impact on net zero targets, is the obvious answer.

So Europe is scrambling to find a way to wean itself off a heavy reliance on Russian gas.

Will that involve Germany or others pushing back the timeline on what was an ambitious exit from coal? More domestic gas extraction? It is possible. We will find out later when the EU sets out its plan for reducing dependence on Russian energy.

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Climate report ‘another code red’

The UK is much less exposed in terms of supply from Russia, but is still being hit by global price rises as the market spikes.

Boris Johnson is under pressure from MPs and other campaigners to dig for more gas in the North Sea, or even to restart fracking.

The prime minister is about to announce an “energy supply strategy” that may well include more domestic extraction alongside a new push for renewables and nuclear – an all of the above approach that the green wing of his party will be dismayed with.

That’s because both the United Nations and the International Energy Agency have been unequivocal.

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To hit global climate change targets, there should be no new fossil fuel extraction.

The UK’s independent advisory Climate Change Committee is pretty clear about the North Sea too.

In a recent letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, it wrote: “Any increases in UK extraction of oil and gas would have, at most, a marginal effect on the prices faced by UK consumers in future.”

Read more:
Russia threatens to cut Europe’s gas supplies if oil ban goes ahead
UK could spend £6.3m a day on Russian gas this year, think tank warns

But Mr Johnson may well calculate that although North Sea gas and oil won’t help much with price, it will help with security of supply, and crucially the perception of security of supply.

Both are vital as the Western world reels in the face of Russian aggression.

Even if it jeopardises climate commitments in practice and in spirit.

And so in capitals across the planet, officials are now staring at the climate change rule book, once a defining part of their legacies, wondering if it can be torn up.

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