By Anders Lorenzen
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, in the name of energy security countries have sought to increase the use of fossil fuels again, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the climate crisis has somehow disappeared.
In his first major climate and energy speech since COP26 last year, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General said: “Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use”. He continued: “Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction. We need to fix the broken global energy mix.” He added: “Instead of hitting the brakes on the decarbonization of the global economy, now is the time to race towards a renewable energy future,” a clear reference to many countries having rekindled their relationships to fossil fuels post the invasion.
Increasing our reliance on fossil fuels rather than easing it
In his speech, the UN head voiced concerns that rather than serving as an urgent warning to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels, the war in Ukraine makes the challenge of cutting emissions even larger.
The main challenge for countries heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels is the global pressure for timelines to drastically and urgently ease that demand. The EU is currently discussing proposals on how fast they should phase out Russian gas, and they are pressing for a huge target just within the following year. Those gaps in energy capacity will now have to be found elsewhere and that cannot be achieved with low-carbon sources at such short notice, problematically giving clear incentive for opening up new fossil fuel projects and new fossil fuel exploration.
The US and several countries in Europe are currently mulling new fossil fuel projects to plug the gap to reduce their reliance on mainly Russian gas, but very much also Russian oil and coal.