The world has been hit hard with the pandemic during the past few years, but who would have known that 2022 would also bring war to Europe?
Svitlana Krakowska, Ukraine’s leading climate scientist and the head of the Ukrainian scientist delegation, struggled to finish the vast Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report before its release on the 28th of February under the Russian attacks in Kyiv, stated the Guardian. In her opinion, the roots of both the war and climate change are in fossil fuels.
“Burning oil, gas, and coal is causing warming and impacts we need to adapt to. And Russia sells these resources and uses the money to buy weapons. Other countries are dependent upon these fossil fuels, they don’t make themselves free of them. This is a fossil fuel war. It’s clear we cannot continue to live this way, it will destroy our civilization,” said Krakowska to the Guardian.
International Energy Agency (IEA) reacted immediately and provided a 10-point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas. The plan consists of a combination of measures that would be consistent with the European Green Deal and support energy security and affordability. There are complementary measures that could be taken already in the upcoming months: drawing on other energy sources, turning more to other suppliers, and accelerating efforts to provide consumers, businesses, and industries to use efficient and clean alternatives to natural gas.
In 2021, the European Union imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, accounting for around 45% of EU gas imports and close to 40% of its total gas consumption, reported IEA. What more can governments do in the immediate future to bring Russia down, stop the war and climate change?
“Nobody is under any illusions anymore. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The IEA’s 10-Point Plan provides practical steps to cut Europe’s reliance on Russian gas imports by over a third within a year while supporting the shift to clean energy in a secure and affordable way. Europe needs to rapidly reduce the dominant role of Russia in its energy markets and ramp up the alternatives as quickly as possible.”
We don’t have time to be short-sighted. The newest IPCC report reduces it to three years to radically change lifestyle and consumption. The key actions in the IEA’s 10-Point Plan include not signing new gas contracts with Russia; accelerating the deployment of solar and wind, making the most of existing low emissions energy sources, and ramping up energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses.
While the switch to renewables and energy-efficiency measures can tackle 55% of global emissions, Circular Economic strategies are needed to address the remaining 45%, according to the Ellen McArthur Foundation of 2019, quoted by the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy for Net Zero initiative.
On that, a few crucial questions remain. How fast can we transform our linear economy into a circular one that promotes safe use of natural resources and the elimination of waste (and gives us access to opportunities that can yield up to $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030)? How to cut CO2 emissions by half by 2030 and help industries produce better by incentivizing them with a carbon tax if needed? How to promote local, clean productions, and limit imports from giant mass polluters and mess-makers like the ultra-fast fashion monster Shein, for example?
As Linda Fischer and Elena Erdmann write in Die Zeit, the 6th chapter of the latest IPCC is “probably the most important one of the 2022 report.” In their opinion, the report calls for a “structural change of the global economy” and might change the behavior of individuals that share the core of the current economic system. Changes to food consumption and industrial production should be implemented with vigor to keep global warming limits within reach. Same as Linda and Elena, I’m sure that more affordable low-carbon technologies and the urgency to leave fossil fuels reinvigorated by the war in Ukraine make great strides in climate action still feasible.