Energy transition to call for war in Ukraine

“To limit warming to around 2°C, global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 and fall by a quarter by 2030.” summarizes the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a press release accompanying the release of its latest report on solutions to climate change.

→ READ. Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Is Possible…and Needed

This call for order comes at a time when the war in Ukraine is upsetting the 27’s energy strategy. For more than a month, the priority has been to end the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and oil. Risking slowing down the efforts made so far? Or, conversely, can we see an acceleration of the energy transition? “We are seeing the emergence of many measures, and today it is too early to say which way the scales will tip,” sums up Carole Mathieu, Research Fellow at the Energy Center of the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri).

Supply diversification

The final EU strategy will be presented on 18 May. But the tracks were sketched in March last year. One third of the 155 billion cubic meters annually imported from Russia can be compensated by diversifying sources of supply, in particular by importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States, Qatar or Australia. Another third could be obtained by accelerating the energy transition through the European climate package (“green deal”): deployment of solar and wind energy, massive home renovations, installation of heat pumps, consumption control.

Until these measures are rolled out, the last remaining third will come from a focus on other forms of energy, in particular coal-fired and oil-fired power plants. Several European countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, are already considering increasing the use of their coal-fired power plants to get through next winter. In France, the Ministry of Energy is considering restarting the Saint-Avold power plant in Moselle, which was due to shut down for good on March 31st.

“Short-term risk”

“There is a real risk that in the short term we will see a deterioration in the performance of the EU in terms of emission reductions, notes Carol Mathieu. Then by 2025, large-scale investments and measures will be needed to cut emissions far enough to offset the excess of our climate targets. »

According to Ajay Gambhir, an energy transition researcher at Imperial College London, the risk lies less with coal than with investments made to increase European imports of liquefied natural gas. “The biggest risk is to lock the European Union into a new permanent dependence on gas, either by creating new infrastructure that will have to be profitable or by entering into new long-term contracts. » Germany has already announced the signing of a contract to build the country’s first LNG import terminal worth more than one billion euros, with construction scheduled for 2025.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz indicated that in the future this terminal could be converted to import green hydrogen (designed to replace gas and produced from renewable energy sources). But no one knows when this technology will become mature. “The solution advocated by Germany remains a technological bet,” notes Carol Mathieu.

Accelerating Renewable Energy Adoption

On the one hand, coal, fuel oil and LNG pollute the environment more than gas imported from Russia. On the other hand, explains MEP Pascal Canfin (Renew, liberals).“A consensus has now been reached in Europe to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and decarbonize our energy infrastructure.. The crisis has shown everyone that our dependence on fossil fuels is a big risk. » In particular, new rules should be defined in the coming months to promote the expansion of the use of solar and wind energy.

The question of reducing consumption also broke into the speech. The European Commission is promoting energy efficiency through home renovations and there are voices in several countries and in the International Energy Agency (IEA) to recommend the introduction of sobriety (reducing speed on roads, reducing heating in some buildings). . Even though states have taken little action since the crisis began.

Other countries are accelerating their transition. Germany is currently aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2035, ten years ahead of schedule. The Netherlands also announced a plan to double the number of wind turbines by 2030 when France removed gas heating subsidies in March.

The rest of the world

The consequences of the crisis – and the issues of the energy transition – go beyond the simple European framework. In the US, US President Joe Biden said the country could increase hydrocarbon production to offset Russian gas. But some analysts stress that the response could not have been foreseen immediately, as the country’s infrastructure is already being used at full capacity.

And what about coal, which remains the largest emitter of CO2?2 produce electricity? “There is a real risk of a momentum towards coal in some countries as it remains more competitive than gas.emphasizes Dave Jones, global manager of Ember, a British think tank specializing in coal output. But one of the scenarios could be a direct transition of individual countries from coal to renewable energy sources, without an intermediate transition through gas, as has been the case so far. » Especially if the price of renewables proves to be more competitive than fossil fuels.

Finally, it remains to be seen how the energy crisis will spread to other levers of the ecological transition. Maria Pastukhova, researcher on energy diplomacy at the British think tank E3G, notes: “One of the risks is that high fossil fuel prices affect the fiscal space of nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change, especially in the Global South. »


CO2 emissions continue to rise

Emissions have increased averaging about 1.3% per year between 2010 and 2019.

In 201934% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, 24% from industry, 22% from agriculture and land use (including deforestation), 15% from transport, and 6% from construction.

In 2020only 53% of global emissions were regulated. “Policy coverage remains limited with regard to emissions from agriculture and the production of industrial materials and raw materials,” marks the report.

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