War in Ukraine is scrambling the world’s ability to fight climate change

The conflict has disrupted logistics, business operations and commercial pipelines around the world: sea, land and air transport are taking roundabout routes to avoid no-fly zones and dangers of war; multinational companies are abandoning their operations due to sanctions and pressure to break ties; and countries are scrambling to meet short-term energy needs, in some cases doubling down on coal, in their efforts to reduce reliance on Russian exports.

“Everything is coming to an end,” said Alla Valente, a senior analyst in the security and risk team at Forrester Research.

“It’s not just logistics time, it’s not just cost of oil or how much oil is used, it’s not just waiting to receive our shipment of semiconductor chips, it’s not just labor shortages in transportation. “, said. “It’s none of those things, it’s all of those things.”

Dysfunction in supply chains and energy lead to even higher costs to consumers, businesses, governments and ultimately the environment, experts say.

“War is a very energy-consuming business,” said Nikos Tsafos, an energy and geopolitics expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It takes energy to move things, to move troops and equipment.”

World oil prices have already risen to their highest levels in nearly a decade, driving up the costs of everything from food to fertilizer.

“Stepper increases in food and fuel prices may lead to a heightened risk of unrest in some regions,” the International Monetary Fund warned last month. “In the longer term, war can fundamentally alter the global economic and geopolitical order if energy trade changes, supply chains are reconfigured, payment networks are fragmented, and countries reconsider reserve currency holdings.”

A withdrawal from Russian oil and gas

Those changes are already happening as countries around the world seek to reduce their dependence on Russian oil, gas and other commodities.

The United States has banned all Russian imports of oil, natural gas and coal, and the UK has unveiled a plan to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year and Finally put an end to Imports of natural gas as well.

Meanwhile, the European Union has said it would impose a fifth round of sanctions on Russia, including an import ban on Russian coal, though it stopped short of banning Russian oil.

Europe imports about 40% of its natural gas from Russia and has put forward a plan to reduce Russian imports of natural gas by 66% this year.

“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement last month. “We simply cannot trust a vendor that explicitly threatens us.”

Russia’s actions “will have enormous economic repercussions for the world,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in her annual testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. In addition to creating global food insecurity and debt burdens, “we are witnessing the vulnerability that comes from being dependent on one fuel source or trading partner, so it is imperative to diversify energy sources and providers,” she said.

Energy security vs climate strategy

In the immediate term, EU countries are being forced to explore a variety of means to keep energy flowing and warm their citizens through the winter, Tsafos said.

And that could very well include the use of more coal. Countries that previously saw natural gas as a stepping stone in energy transition plans are now considering burning coal for longer than planned, said Frans Timmermans, who heads the EU’s Green Deal efforts. However, Timmermans cautioned that such a move should only be used as a stopgap and a rapid acceleration toward renewable energy should follow.
To help fill the gaps, the US has also shifted some of its liquefied natural gas exports to Europe, Tsafos said. And the Biden Administration has reportedly weighed exemptions to a recent ban on funding fossil fuel projects abroad, Reuters reported.

“I think the general goal of Europeans is to do things that don’t undermine their climate strategy, so they would like not to use more coal unless they have to,” Tsafos said, highlighting the European Union’s goals of being climate neutral. to 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. “But so far, their strategy has come down to trying to buy whatever gas they can find, and I think the risk of that is that this could put a lot of stress on the gas”. .”

Putting aside short-term energy security efforts, the current crisis will likely prompt Europe and others to accelerate their climate plans, stop using fossil fuels and invest more in renewable energy technologies, said Ryan Kellogg, a professor in the School of Public Policy Harris of the University of Chicago. that he specializes in energy economics, environmental policy, and industrial organization.

“All of that takes time. It’s really not going to help with the acute high prices and pain that consumers are feeling right now,” he said. “Where it does help is when the next crisis comes.”

CNN Business’ Mark Thompson contributed to this report.

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