The war in Europe could not have come at a worse time. Just a few months ago, the UN climate conference in the UK forged a rare global consensus in the fight against global warming. Oil producers like the US and Saudi Arabia announced major plans for their transition to renewable energy, while rich nations agreed to contribute resources to the developing world. It was also widely understood that progress on the rest of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals rested on effective climate action.
The Fatal Invasion of Russain
Now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has turned the world upside down, undermining its strategic focus on emergent issues. And unsurprisingly so. Climate change, central to US President Joe Biden’s agenda, was hardly mentioned in his State of the Union address. The latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change likewise failed to attract the global attention it deserved.
The UN’s Agenda 2030 obliges member states to make incremental progress on 17 SDGs in less than a decade. Climate change tops this agenda. It cannot be compromised, despite our apparent return to the ugly geopolitics of the Cold War era.
In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the international community agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. The recent UN climate conference reaffirmed this pledge through global commitments to “phase down” the use of fossil fuels, curb carbon dioxide emissions, and share resources and technologies to avert climate change.
The Brutal chagement of environement
The IPCC has consistently warned the world about the worsening dangers. Its latest report, released last week, portrays a scarier scenario: The climate breakdown is occurring quicker than anticipated and many parts of the planet will become unlivable in the next few decades if the temperature increases beyond 1.5 C. Hence, the report calls for drastic action on a huge scale to sharply reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.
The restructuring of energy
The problem, however, is that the world — including both developed and developing economies — needs the energy to grow or, as currently seen, recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This energy is largely sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which are the principal sources of global warming. The resulting paradox has assumed particularly grave dimensions with the onset of perhaps the most serious conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
Europe has been a key driver of the global transition to renewable energy, influencing major fossil fuel producers and suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint. Hence, the Biden administration seeks to cut US emissions roughly in half compared with 2005 levels. Like the EU, Saudi Arabia plans to generate half of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
The impact of Ukraine war
The Ukraine war has taken these promises to avert climate change off the global agenda. The EU gets almost 90 percent of its energy needs from external sources, including 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. In the wake of the war, as US and EU economic sanctions undermine Russia’s ability to export oil and gas, the continent has had to instantly shift to the readily available imports of liquefied natural gas from the US and Qatar to prevent any shortfalls and expedite its long-term transition to renewable sources of energy.