The invasion of Ukraine and the fallout in energy prices have national governments around the globe making big and consequential choices about the energy transition. Spurred by energy supply security concerns and moral considerations, many governments are scrambling to get off fossil fuel imports from Russia. Some of these decisions are quite positive, creating much needed momentum behind transition to renewables, even though one cannot help lamenting the fact that much of this could have been done earlier and less frantically.
Some, however, are short sighted and poor. This week, for example, the German government announced a contract with Qatar for the supply of liquefied fossil gas in an attempt to quickly pivot away from Russian fossil fuels. This deal means that Germany is locking in significant new fossil fuel infrastructure, with two new LNG ports being given the go-ahead – projects that would take three years or more to build. We can not afford new fossil fuel infrastructure, full stop, if we are to maintain a liveable climate.
Moreover, China has the capacity, and by some accounts, the desire to secure gas from Russia, effectively picking up capacity that is currently going to Europe (and no, it’s not reducing coal demand at the same time). So, in effect, new fossil gas infrastructure in Europe + new pipeline infrastructure from Russia to China would mean a double whammy for fossil fuel “lock-in.”
In addition, the current coal phase-out dates of rich countries were already causing a lot of legitimate objections from the Global South to commit to coal phase-out of their own (i.e. “If even rich Germany can’t quit coal before 2030, is it just to ask developing countries to quit soon?”). Now, if Germany also delays its coal phase-out, then this will be a terrible message to send before COP27, where some of the messaging around coal phase-out areexpected to be strengthened.
The world needs to shift massive resources to renewable energy and energy efficiency development and deployment. One source of revenue could be a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies, while potential programs like “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” could offer ways for the actual deployment. Already, some governments seem to be picking up on the fact that the huge windfalls fossil fuel companies are reaping during wartime energy shifts, are not just, and are harmful to social equity. The Italian government just announced a windfall tax on some energy companies to reduce the burden energy bills create on low-income households. Making sure that such a burden is not created in the first place by reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels would be the logical next step.
The discourse over huge shifts in energy supply is as loud as it’s ever been. The fossil fuelled lobbying apparatus is in full force pushing for deregulation and new infrastructure. We have an important role to play, right now. We need to be louder, more persistent, and more compelling than ever before.
Sign this petition and look for opportunities to call on your government to focus all effort on renewable energy and energy efficiency to get us off fossil fuels.