Decarbonization is now a strategic imperative

Although a rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions was already needed to address climate change, the task has become doubly urgent in response to Russia’s territorial aggression and weaponization of energy supplies. Achieving net zero emissions must now be a central goal of defense and security policy.

BRUSSELS – The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced the European Union to pick up the pace of our energy and climate policy. As the Kremlin has made increasing use of the energy card as a tool of political influence, we must deprive it of that leverage tool by radically reducing our dependence on fossil fuel imports from Russia.

Added to the geopolitical justification for this need is the imperative to address the issue of climate change. In its latest report on mitigation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlines the urgency of this task. If we are to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, total greenhouse gas emissions must peak in 2025. In addition, the transition of the economy as a whole to clean energy must be carefully managed in ways that take into account account its inevitable social and economic consequences. It must be a “just transition”.

The European Union (EU) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) play a key role in this transition. Investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and innovative technologies, such as green hydrogen, are important tools in countering Russian aggression and help save the planet from dependence on fossil fuels. Every euro that we dedicate to the energy transition within our borders is one euro less in the hands of an authoritarian power that maintains an aggressive war. Every euro we spend on clean energy increases our independence in making our own decisions. Every euro we spend helping our international partners accelerate their decarbonisation strategies is an investment in resilience and in the fight against climate change.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EU has accelerated its energy transition plans to help end Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel imports from Russia as soon as possible. Although this will not happen overnight, the incentives are now greater than ever. Achieving energy independence is possible by improving energy efficiency, diversifying supplies and increasing the use of renewable energies. This process requires mobilization at all levels, from supranational organizations to households and individuals.

In this regard, two important risks need to be kept in mind. First, the search for alternative suppliers of natural gas, a fuel that remains critical in the short term, must not subject us to a long-term dependency that requires large investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. Such a response would be costly, catastrophic for the planet, and ultimately unnecessary, given the more climate-friendly options already available.

Second, we must not trade one bottleneck for another and move from over-reliance on fossil fuels to over-reliance on the materials needed for the ecological transition. These resources are highly concentrated in a small group of countries, and not all of them share the same values ​​and interests as the EU. Strengthening the strategic autonomy and resilience of the EU must remain a primary objective of the transition.

Europe cannot do it alone. Winning the battle against climate change and dealing with Russian aggression are global challenges that require a global response. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has reinforced the strategic case for all countries to reduce their fossil fuel imports and invest more in climate-friendly energy solutions.

This is why the EU conducts extensive climate diplomacy. We want to encourage other countries to raise their level of climate ambition, and we have committed significant resources to work with partner countries so that they, too, can transition to a resilient zero-emissions economy. Through the European Green Deal and the new EU “Global Gateway” initiative, EU institutions and Member States are mobilizing up to €300 billion ($325 billion) of investment in green and digital infrastructure to tackle climate, energy and biodiversity crises.

On the other hand, the EIB has committed to supporting an investment of €1 trillion in actions in favor of climate and environmental sustainability by 2030. Through its new “BEI Global” development component, the Bank is working with partners around the world to mobilize financing for projects in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy and electricity networks.

As part of the EU’s joint effort under “Team Europe”, the EIB’s support for a clean energy future ranges from investing in solar energy in Senegal to financing more energy-efficient daycare centers in Armenia. The Bank has also helped forge the Partnership for a Just Energy Transition with South Africa; has supported the International Solar Alliance based in India, which contributes to the development of solar energy in 105 tropical countries; and has signed a comprehensive water management and flood prevention plan in Argentina.

The European Union is ready to help the world community end its dependence on fossil fuels. The Russian war in Ukraine is not a reason to delay investments in climate action.

On the contrary, a greater ecological investment will provide us with greater strategic autonomy. Decarbonization has become a geopolitical imperative.

We call on our partners in governments around the world and in international financial institutions to join in accelerating clean energy financing. By achieving climate neutrality we will also be able to guarantee energy security.

Joseph Borrell

He is High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission.

Werner Hoyer

He is the president of the European Investment Bank.

Copyright: Project Syndicate 1995 – 2022

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