The Ukraine War Could Stall Climate Action — or Galvanize It
Until recently, German leaders didn’t see this dependency as a problem. As Alec McGillis explains in The New Yorker, Germany actually chose to rely on Russia “because it saw the economic links created by fuel imports — physical links, in the form of pipelines through Eastern Europe and under the Baltic Sea — as integral to keeping peace and integrating Russia into the rest of Europe.”
The big picture: In the view of Svitlana Krakovska, Ukraine’s leading climate scientist, who helped finalize the I.P.C.C. report from Kyiv as Russia invaded, the war on her home country is inextricably linked to climate change. “Burning oil, gas and coal is causing warming and impacts we need to adapt to,” she told The Guardian. “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.”
How the war could spur climate action
In the immediate term, Germany and others could take measures to reduce their consumption of Russian fossil fuels, as the Times columnist Paul Krugman explains. Eliminating their use, though, would incur steep costs to the German people equivalent to those of a moderate recession.
“It’s not so simple to just say, ‘OK, overnight, now we’re going to suddenly switch and no longer going to be dependent on natural gas from Russia,’ or fossil fuels in general,” Pete Ogden, vice president for energy, climate and the environment at the U.N. Foundation, told Yahoo News. “Right now, you’re seeing that vulnerability exposed and there not being easy, short-term fixes to that problem.”
But it’s evident that the fusion of foreign-policy and climate interests has lent more political momentum to decarbonization. Germany, for its part, just earmarked 200 billion euros for investment in renewable energy production between now and 2026. “Many of the strategies to lower dependency on Russia are the same as the policy measures you want to take to lower emissions,” Thijs Van de Graaf, a professor of international politics at Ghent University, told The Financial Times. “At the moments where we have these crises, the [energy] transition can be supercharged.”
The European Union has vowed to slash Russian natural gas imports by two-thirds by next winter and to cut them out entirely by 2027. “That would be an extremely ambitious timetable in peacetime, but if the continent shifts to a war footing — as it must, with a savage conflict playing out on its eastern borders — then it should be achievable,” The Boston Globe editorial board writes.