War in Ukraine puts German climate action in the spotlight

THE UNITED NATIONS — Germany remains committed to phasing out coal as an energy source by 2030, even if it reactivates coal-fired power plants, the country’s climate envoy said on Monday. Germany says it made the decision to weather the coming winter amid energy shortages resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We are at a crossroads right now,” Morgan said, adding that the war in Ukraine shows how energy security and independence are tied to climate security and peace. Morgan spoke to The Associated Press on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The US-born former international director of Greenpeace stepped into the role of Germany’s special envoy for international climate action in March. Today a German citizen, she is also Secretary of State.

Ten months ago, in her role at Greenpeace, she blamed world leaders for being “weak” in phasing out coal rather than phasing it out altogether. More circumspect as a government official, she now says dirty fuel is a bitter medicine her country is forced to take this winter, echoing the sentiment of the country’s Green party.

“We are in the midst of a war of Russian aggression,” she said. “We need to make sure our citizens have enough warmth for the winter.”

She said the decision to burn more coal was “a tough pill to swallow”. She stressed, however, that the war in Ukraine “has shown more and more clearly why we need to phase out fossil fuels.”

European Union countries are spending billions this year on fossil fuel subsidies to offset high prices. The bloc has drawn heavy criticism for including natural gas, a fossil fuel and nuclear power in a list of sustainable activities. The bloc also signed a deal this year with Egypt and Israel to help with new gas exploration.

Morgan said Germany’s top priority remains renewables and energy efficiency, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. The second priority, she said, is to replace the Russian gas, oil and coal.

In a sign of its intention to do so, Berlin announced last week that it had seized Russian state-owned Rosneft’s stakes in refineries in Germany under a law allowing the seizure of assets deemed essential. national energy supply that belong to potentially hostile foreign entities. , according to risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

Germany had previously seized the assets of Russian state-controlled gas company Gazprom, which halted deliveries of natural gas to Germany due to what it sees as technical problems – an explanation that German officials dismiss it as a political maneuver.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Germany has cut off dialogue with Russia and has no climate talks with the major energy producer, which is among the top five emitters of greenhouse gases.

Historically, the United States, China and the European Union – of which Germany is a major member – have emitted 53% of the carbon dioxide into the air since 1959. This greenhouse gas remains in the atmosphere for 100 years, according to the Global Carbon Project, a group of international scientists who track carbon emissions.

In contrast, the whole of Africa and South America each emitted only 3% CO2 into the atmosphere during the same period.

Recent devastating floods in Pakistan and drought in the Horn of Africa, including impending famine in Somalia, have been partly blamed on climate change.

As international executive director of Greenpeace, Morgan had called for holding the main greenhouse gas emitting countries to account and forcing them to pay the bill for the energy transition according to the “polluter pays principle”.

In her new role as Germany’s climate envoy, she said the country listens to the most vulnerable countries and supports climate finance to help communities around the world struggling with the effects of climate change.

“The world is literally on fire,” she said. “We have to take this very seriously.”

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Dubai-based PA correspondent Aya Batrawy is on assignment to cover the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ayaelb

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