New Climate Targets Delayed: EU Leaders Seek Ways To Curb Dependence On Russian Gas

  • Date: 19/03/14
  • Barbara Lewis, Reuters

European leaders will seek ways to cut their multi-billion-dollar dependence on Russian gas at talks in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. The talks are expected to delay any new climate and green energy targets.

European leaders will seek ways to cut their multi-billion-dollar dependence on Russian gas at talks in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, while stopping short of severing energy ties with Moscow for now.

Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region has revived doubts about whether the European Union should continue to rely on Russia for nearly a third of its gas, providing Gazprom with an average of $5 billion per month in revenues. Some 40 percent of that gas is shipped via Ukraine.

EU powerhouse Germany is among those with particularly close energy links to Russia and has echoed comments from Gazprom, Russia’s top natural gas producer, that Russia has been a reliable supplier for decades.

Russian supplies of gas to the European Union were disrupted in 2006 and 2009, but only because of knock-on effects when Moscow cut off Ukraine for not paying its bills. Although those incidents resulted in EU attempts to diversify its energy sources, contracts to the bloc have always been honoured.

EU officials said the current Ukraine crisis, however, had convinced many in Europe that Russia was no longer reliable and the political will to end its supply dominance had never been greater.

“Everyone recognises a major change of pace is needed on the part of the European Union,” one EU official said on condition of anonymity.

“At the back of people’s minds, there will always be the doubt that if the relationship goes sour, Russia has that weapon and it’s not something it should have,” another official said, referring to Russia’s option of severing supplies.

As alternatives to imported gas, the Brussels talks will debate the European Union’s “indigenous supplies”, which include renewable energy and shale gas.

They will also underline the need for energy efficiency and to build better cross-border links to share resources, control costs and develop EU capacity to pump gas to Ukraine.

Debate is also under way, ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Brussels next week, on how much U.S. gas could be shipped to Europe. For the shorter term, officials said Qatar could increase shipments. [...]

As coal-dependent Poland for one opposes an early agreement on 2030 climate and energy policy, this week’s talks are not expected to get anywhere near a deal on that.

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