Monday, May 23

Five Green Answers to Russia’s Gas ‘Addiction’

The war in Ukraine has shown the dependence that the European Union has on the gas it buys from Russia. “It has revealed the vulnerability of our production model based on fossil fuels, which is reflected in the climate crisis, the exorbitant increase in the price of electricity and transport,” jointly analyze Greenpeace, SEO-Birdlife, WWF, Friends of Earth and Ecologists in Action, who have designed a green alternative to this addiction gas.

The Arctic, the key that connects climate change with the crisis in Ukraine

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The European hook to Russian hydrocarbons is undeniable. The person in charge of foreign policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, has already warned that “sooner or later” the Union will have to address actions on fossil fuels imported into Russia: as of April 6, European states had paid 35,000 million euros to the Slavic country for its gas and oil (much of it extracted from deposits in the Arctic that are increasingly accessible and usable thanks to the disappearance of the northern ice, due to the same climate crisis).

Even Germany has embarked on a race to cut this dependence, although, for now, by signing oil and coal contracts with other producing states. These five environmental organizations present an alternative: a “rapid transition towards an efficient, democratic energy system based on 100% renewable sources” to “deal with the climate emergency and fossil dependency”.

They fear that the war will serve as an excuse to recover megaprojects, which take many millions of euros, to avoid Russian gas based on other gases that must be transported. It is not an invented thought: the Midcat gas tube that had been discarded due to its dubious profitability has been dusted off. And Spain is considering becoming the European gas store. “It would mean prolonging the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels,” analyze these environmental groups.

1- Release of gas (and oil)

Because natural gas is just that: a fossil fuel. And the climate crisis is a consequence of the warming of the Earth caused by the layer of greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere based on burning fuels such as coal, oil and, also, gas. This hydrocarbon causes the greenhouse effect and emits harmful ultrafine particles. The response of these five groups goes through:

  • Instead of generalized discounts on fuels that “represent a high cost to the State, have a regressive distribution profile and do not discourage consumption or the generation of emissions”, create a “special social bonus for the most disadvantaged social groups dedicated to sustaining the mobility of these people”.
  • Reinforcement of public transport both urban and peri-urban: direct support for municipal transport companies to strengthen their services in the face of rising fuel costs. “It would encourage the change from the own vehicle, which would contribute to a lower fuel consumption of families and less CO2 emissions”, provides this proposal. Road transport, in general, generates 25% of the greenhouse gases that Spain releases into the atmosphere. In this sense, they suggest replacing car lanes with Bus-HOV lanes or cyclists to enter cities.
  • Accelerate fossil abandonment: their idea is that the entire electrical system be 100% renewable in 2030 and all energy in 2040. “The deployment of renewables must be respectful,” they add. What does that mean: prioritize degraded roofs and soils for the installation of solar panels. Also urban and industrial land. “There is a need for a regulation that regulates this prioritization.”
  • Casas: “a large-scale investment to decarbonise homes”. Basically, that the houses use less energy and that they use zero greenhouse gas emissions. Homes account for 20% of CO2 emissions in Spain. The key is, they say, in “energy saving and self-consumption”. They also consider it essential that there is money for “the energy rehabilitation of buildings”. Spanish buildings, not just homes, emit just over 9% of CO2.
  • Price of electricity without gas: “That people benefit from the reduction in prices provided by renewable energies”, they claim. Electricity generation emits 12% of CO2 Spanish. This is what has come to be recognized by the Iberian exceptionality negotiated by Spain and Portugal with the rest of the European Union and agreed with the Commission to put a cap on the price of the megawatt hour generated with gas. But that solution is temporary. It will last 12 months for now.

2 – Agricultural production

Ukraine is called “the breadbasket of Europe”. The war in its territory has put on the table the need to advance in food self-sufficiency.

In fact, a good amount of the grain that Spain imports from this Eastern country is to feed animals for the livestock industry: 27% of corn, 12% of wheat and 30% of vegetable cakes for livestock are bought from Ukraine. Russia has great influence in the fertilizer market both directly and with the natural gas used in its manufacture.

Its solution includes “the reduction of the use of fertilizers, phytosanitary products, antimicrobials and food waste, as proposed by the European Green Deal roadmap, as well as by increasing the area in organic production”, the five groups propose.

  • Just transition of the livestock sector “to put an end to industrial exploitation”: the organizations’ proposal is that “production is adapted to national consumption, which in turn must be adjusted to the carrying capacity of ecosystems”.
  • Agricultural production involving less hydrocarbons: with a decrease in fuels by relocating food production closer to the consumer, with less mineral and chemical fertilizers. “This model requires”, says the proposal, “guarantee fair prices and public money for public goods generated by farmers and ranchers.”
  • Tackling food waste: Between 20 and 30% of what is produced goes to waste, they calculate. The brake on waste implies a long chain of links from the farm where they are produced, the industry, the distribution, the homes themselves and the restoration businesses.

This green alternative concludes that “the exit from the crises caused by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine cannot postpone actions to stop the loss of biodiversity and tackle climate change. Nor can it be that the measures negatively affect nature. In fact, environmental degradation is behind the outbreak of diseases like the new coronavirus. And, at the same time, the same causes are fueling the climate crisis.

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