The war in Ukraine is ‘a wake-up call’ for a faster transition to green energy

Western countries must respond to the current energy crisis rocking the world and exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine by accelerating their transition to carbon neutrality and “friend-shoring” their supply chains, senior officials said on Tuesday. American and European officials.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opened the Brussels Economic Forum by saying the war – which has led to energy price spikes and exposed Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels – constitutes a “warning signal to accelerate the global transition towards a secure and cleaner energy future”.

“No country controls the wind and the sun. Let’s make this the last time the global economy is held hostage by the hostile actions of those who produce fossil fuels. It will happen again if we don’t change our approach,” she added.

Following Russia’s continued attack on its neighbour, the US, EU and UK imposed several rounds of sanctions designed to weaken Moscow’s ability to finance and wage its war. State-owned enterprises, senior officials as well as prominent businessmen and oligarchs have been sanctioned, while exports of key tech products to Russia have been banned.

In retaliation, Moscow cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

Click on the video player below to follow the Brussels Economic Forum.

Brussels also wants to ban Russian oil in the bloc and unveiled a planned elimination nearly two weeks ago, but negotiations on the proposal are still ongoing as several member states, led by Hungary, have opposed such moves. plans due to their heavy reliance on Russia. energy imports.

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine draws attention,” Valdis Dombrovkis, EU trade commissioner, told the forum.

He added that the EU was “taking strategic decisions quickly, phasing out our dependence on Russian fossil fuels” and that this meant, in the short term, a diversification of fossil fuel suppliers, as well as an “acceleration of the transition green”.

He pointed out that the Commission’s highly anticipated RePower EU plan, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, will provide details on how the 27-nation bloc will conduct its transition and how it will finance it.

The EU has committed to becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 and aims to cut emissions by 55% by 2030.

“If anything, Russia’s aggression is concentrating minds and ensuring that we need to move away from fossil fuels faster,” he concluded.

Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, meanwhile pointed out that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also underlined the need for Europe and its partners to build “a healthy interdependence in the world so that supply chains are not disrupted” as they decarbonize their economies.

“It also means paying attention to the new materials we need in this new energy economy and the strategic autonomy we need to build,” she said.

This echoes comments made earlier by Yellen.

“I think we need to think about how to incentivize supply chain ‘friendly shoring’ to more trusted countries for a variety of products, so that we can continue to safely expand the market access, with lower risks to our economy, as well as those of our trading partners,” she said.

Some new materials are crucial for the energy transition, including lithium. Europe, for example, has only one active lithium mine and therefore imports almost all the lithium it needs to produce the batteries needed for electric cars and electronics, as well as to store energy from renewable sources.

China, however, has already invested heavily in rare earth materials such as lithium and is now a world leader in lithium refining and lithium-ion battery production.

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