Ukraine’s man-made crisis is a serious drag on climate action

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has derailed the energy transition process. As the next COP27 conference approaches, political leaders must find ways to show real progress

July 16, 2022, 10:20 a.m.

Last modification: July 16, 2022, 10:29 a.m.

TBS illustration


TBS illustration

Last November, the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) ended with many promises. While not all parties at the COP could agree on phasing out coal, they pledged to phase out coal in the respective countries’ energy systems.

Parties reached consensus on removing fossil fuel subsidies to create a level playing field for renewable energy. Renewed targets in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – although not consistent with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would help meet the 1.5° temperature goal C – are meant to catalyze the momentum to further increase climate ambitions in the foreseeable future.

Last but not least, developed countries have again shown their commitment to meeting the annual climate finance target of $100 billion to help poor and developing countries boost climate change mitigation and adaptation.

However, the euphoria surrounding the progress made at COP26 did not last long. While Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, causing further disruption after the Covid-19 pandemic that lasted two and a half years, the results of COP26 have proven to remain on paper, at least to some extent. measure.

Many countries were caught off guard after the invasion of Ukraine, as the unexpected spike in energy and commodity prices began to impact their economies.

These seem to overshadow the global energy order, which has undergone significant transformations over the past two decades. Affordability of energy and other commodities has become a priority in developed economies, not to mention the needs of low-income people in poor and developing regions of the world.

Well, high fossil fuel prices make the transition to clean energy favorable, but the transition process takes time, as the experience of the past two decades suggests. Consequently, energy security concerns sent shockwaves around the world, prompting some countries to sign long-term LNG contracts that lock them into fossil fuels for years to come.

On the other hand, before and after COP26 last year, the decommissioning of many operational coal-fired power plants and the reduction of investments in new coal-fired power plants were supposed to be the new normal. But, amid the global energy crisis, some countries have increased coal production to cool heated gas markets. The rush between countries to secure fossil fuels for the future is evident.

We have experienced global emergencies in the past with cascading effects on climate actions. The 2008 financial crisis, for example, threatened international efforts to slow or solve climate change and culminated in an unforgettable COP15 in 2009.

Nonetheless, countries agreed on the Paris Climate Deal at COP21 held in 2015, holding out hope of halting irreversible damage to the planet by containing the average temperature rise between 1.5°C and 2°C.

The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has offered opportunities to build back better and cleaner. Different countries have allocated funds for the green recovery. However, under talks to address humanity’s greatest challenge “climate change”, actual efforts to cool the planet have not been entirely commendable. Different analyzes support that some countries have considered financing fossil fuels and subsidizing them in their recovery plans.

However, as things stand, the Ukrainian crisis could derail the energy transition process. While countries like Germany may have already charted paths to become less dependent on Russian oil and gas in the short term and to separate fossil fuels from Russia in the long term, this may not be the case for all. other countries dependent on Russia.

For all practical purposes, this may not necessarily be the interest, but the successive challenges resulting from the Covid-19 crisis and Ukraine appear unmanageable for political leaders. It could further delay the delivery of the promised $100 billion in climate finance per year to poor countries.

There is hope, however, as businesses now understand the risks of climate change and are increasingly converging towards climate-friendly projects and operations. The younger generation is fighting for its future.

More and more people, regardless of their age group, are supporting climate actions. The other side of the coin is that whatever we do, we have to do it quickly. If scientific assessments are to be taken into account, we must halve global GHG emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Currently, global carbon emissions are recorded at an all-time high. Extreme and early heat waves and various disasters are the new normal. Therefore, the global energy order needs a massive transformation that seems to take longer than was thought even a year ago.

While the tasks are already daunting to tackle climate change under normal circumstances and the challenges are only getting worse due to the lack of real attempts compared to promises, the man-made “Ukrainian crisis” is simply a disaster, intensifying carbon emissions.

This is a serious brake on climate action, delaying present and future efforts. The world cannot afford a catastrophe, like the Ukraine crisis, which not only ravages a country but also destabilizes the global energy order. After putting so much effort into moving the issues unresolved for several years forward at COP26, it is ineffective to see little or no progress afterwards.

With the next COP27 conference about five months away now, political leaders must find ways to showcase real progress, both on measures taken to mitigate GHG emissions, adapt to increasingly delicate issues and disburse the agreed $100 billion in climate finance to developed countries. per year. But will the Ukrainian crisis allow it?

Environmental Economist Shafiqul Alam. TBS Sketch

Environmental Economist Shafiqul Alam.  TBS Sketch

Environmental Economist Shafiqul Alam. TBS Sketch

Christi C. Elwood