Moscow’s war in Ukraine must not sideline European Union efforts to cut carbon emissions even as the continent is forced to turn back to coal to cope with reduced supplies of Russian gas, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said.
Several European Union member states are planning to revert to higher coal usage to produce electricity amid reduced gas flows from Russia and a threat of an energy crisis in winter if Moscow halts supplies entirely.
Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands have signalled that coal-fired power plants could help the continent pass through a crisis that has sent gas prices surging and prompted governments to turn to emergency measures to conserve energy.
“A war has created, as it always does, some very difficult tradeoffs … It may be that to keep your economy and create political stability that you temporarily have to use some coal while you are building up renewables,” Kerry told Reuters in an interview in Warsaw.
“The war doesn’t mean climate steps aside all of a sudden, the climate crisis doesn’t stop evolving.” he said. As coal is more carbon-intensive than natural gas, the return to the more polluting fuel will slow the process of cutting emissions. The EU aims for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases in 2030 but analysts fear the target may be in jeopardy amid a jump in coal use. While a temporary boost in coal use in Europe was a tradeoff between security and climate dictated by the war, Europe should strive for an even faster pace of green transition, Kerry said.
“I trust the European governments believe the real lesson of Ukraine … is not that we need more fossil fuels but that we need to move even faster to the transition to a clean energy base,” he said.
Kerry was in Warsaw to discuss energy policy including Poland’s ambitions to build a nuclear power plant.