EU officials on Tuesday outlined a plan to achieve energy independence from Moscow “well before 2030.” The European Union would start by reducing demand for Russian natural gas by two thirds this year. Those plans will be discussed at an emergency summit of EU leaders in France on Thursday.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”
The European Union depends on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas. Russia also supplies about 27% of the 27-country bloc’s oil imports, and 46% of its coal imports. Taken together, that trade is worth tens of billions of dollars a year to Russia, helping to finance President Vladimir Putin’s war effort.
“It is time we tackle our vulnerabilities and rapidly become more independent in our energy choices,” EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said. “Putin’s war in Ukraine demonstrates the urgency of accelerating our clean energy transition.”
Russia’s vast energy exports have so far been carved out of unprecedented sanctions imposed by the West in response to Putin’s decision to order the invasion of Ukraine. But its crude oil is already being shunned by some traders and oil companies, and US officials could announce a ban on imports as early as Tuesday as Russia continues its military action.
EU leaders have made clear this week that the bloc can’t yet join the United States in banning Russian oil, because of the impact that would have on households and businesses already grappling with record high prices for fuel and heating.
But Europe knows it needs to act fast to reduce the potential for Moscow to use energy as a weapon in the escalating economic warfare unleashed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said Monday Russia could cut off the supply of gas to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in retaliation for Berlin blocking the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
In their push for energy independence, EU leaders need to find a way to secure supplies and protect households and businesses from soaring prices, while at the same time ensuring the bloc meets its climate targets of slashing carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieving net -zero by 2050.
“It’s not easy but it’s feasible,” Timmermans told EU lawmakers on Monday.
In addition to accelerating the adoption of renewable energy, the European Commission’s plan calls for tapping alternative supplies, including shipments of liquefied natural gas, boosting production and imports of biomethane and renewable hydrogen, and upgrading buildings to reduce consumption.
The International Energy Agency said last week that Europe could make a big dent in Russian gas imports within a year, while accelerating its shift to clean energy “in a secure and affordable way.”
“Nobody is under any illusions anymore. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon show Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.
— CNN’s Angela Dewan, Chris Liakos, Anna Stewart, Boglarka Kosztolanyi and Inke Kappelle contributed to this article.