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Colombian coal connections: German MEP Kathrin Henneberger works to phase it out on both sides of the Atlantic

After a year serving in Germany’s Bundestag, the climate-champion and Green MEP Kathrin Henneberger now finds herself struggling to defend the progress made by her predecessors. In response to Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz personally calling Colombia’s then president, Iván Duque to increase coal exports, despite well-known human rights violations associated with mining there, Henneberger traveled to the Latin American nation to tour its fossil fuel producing regions. Once there she immediately began forging ties with Colombia’s incoming leftist government, the first in its history, with the intent on forming a new climate alliance aimed at jointly phasing out coal production and burning in both nations. But back home, she remains committed to reducing coal dependency and preventing the destruction of villages around the edges of Germany’s still expanding mines.
What follows is the second part of an edited interview between her and lead blogger, Michael Buchsbaum. Listeners can enjoy a longer version in a companion podcast.

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What’s the Next Big Thing in Energy Storage?

Energy storage becomes all the more indispensable to carbon-neutral transitions, the more wind and solar power enter the energy mix: to absorb excess supply and balance the grid at times of high demand. But there’s more than pumped hydro and batteries out there. Paul Hockenos with an overview on current and new energy storage options.

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Russia’s war does not require returning to energy colonialism in Colombia

Elected to Germany’s Bundestag a year ago, Kathrin Henneberger entered Parliament on a clear mandate from Green Party voters to accelerate coal’s domestic phase out and speed up the energy transition. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the narrative. When word leaked that, despite well-known human rights violations in Colombia, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz had personally called then-president, Iván Duque, to ask if the Latin American country could increase coal exports to Europe and replace sanctioned Russian supplies, Henneberger was outraged. This summer she traveled to Colombia’s coal and oil producing regions, visited front line communities and met with impacted residents. She also took this opportunity to meet members of Colombia’s incoming leftist government, the first in its history, with the goal of forging a new climate alliance. What follows is part one of an edited excerpt of an interview she gave with lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum.

Note: listeners can enjoy a longer version in an upcoming podcast.

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Colombian Conundrum: Cleaner energy or green extractivism poses another challenge for nation’s 1st Left-Green government

Battered by decades of bloody civil war, energy and resource development remain major flash points. But record fossil fuel market prices present a difficult choice for Colombia’s new environmental and social-justice oriented president, Gustavo Petro. Increasing production risks the nation’s fragile peace. But not taking advantage of the revenue, they risk economic collapse. Enjoying excellent wind and solar potential, new internationally funded projects are under construction nationwide. But often sited within the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples, development is happening in ways far too similar to how coal companies have long exploited these same regions. In the third part of a series focusing on Colombia, lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, reviews the dilemma facing Petro’s government as they take office.

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Will Dirty Nationalism Become the New Normal?

When I arrived in Berlin in August 2018, it was impossible to guess how different the world we are living in today would look compared to the summer four years ago. I had just started to work as a research assistant at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs – Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in a project called the “Geopolitics of the Global Energy Transformation”. Building on two scenario workshops and deep-dive discussions with experts from all over the world, the key motivation back then was to better understand where the moving target of the global energy transformation is getting us and what geopolitics have to do with it. This resulted in four different scenarios published in a seminal Nature article in May 2019 with starkly contrasting realities. The point was not to exercise sophisticated crystal ball gazing, but rather to reflect on a deeper, more structural level, and paint the energy world of the future (2030) on a decidedly geopolitical canvas.

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Colombian Conundrum: Banning Russian fossil fuels ups global demand for blood coal

Responding to sanctions leveled on Russia following its February invasion of Ukraine, Moscow throttled deliveries of its fossil gas to the European Union. Desperate to keep the lights on, regulators and power producers returned to coal. But with Russia mining almost 70% of EU imports, burners needed other suppliers. Despite widely acknowledged human rights abuses there, in early April, German Chancellor Scholz personally called president Iván Duque to request that Colombian miners ramp up production and exports to Europe. However in elections this summer Colombians voters swept in the nation’s first ever leftist government. The second in a series on this Latin American nation, lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum briefly reviews its struggles with coal and the situation Gustavo Petro’s environmentally focused administration faces.

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Four transformations for Ukraine to become a new green powerhouse of Europe

In the past six months people of Ukraine have shown to the world a great example of resilience, ingenuity, and bravery by successfully pushing back against the full-scale military invasion unleashed by Russia. With broad international support Ukraine is now set to take over the aggressor and regain its territorial integrity. But an even bigger non-military battle lies ahead for Ukraine – the battle for energy independence and long-term economic prosperity. Amory Bloch Lovins and Svitlana Romanko explain.

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Colombia part 1 | The Global Energy Transition Podcast – Season 2, Episode 1

Aftershocks from Russia’s war against Ukraine continue rippling around the world, including to the deserts and jungles of Colombia. Producing increasing volumes of oil and fossil gas, this Andean country is also one of the world’s largest coal exporters.

Long rocked by violence, civil war as well as government and industry-linked terrorism, prior to Russia’s invasion European buyers had been curtailing fossil fuel and “blood coal” imports from Colombia due to linkages with human rights violations. But faced with its own energy crisis, following a personal call in April from German chancellor Olaf Scholz to Colombia’s then President Ivan Duque, more coal than ever is sailing from Latin America to European ports.

But then two months later, voters elected the nation’s first ever left-green government into power. Campaigning on a platform to accelerate their clean energy transition, ban fracking, and restrict coal mining, the economist and former Bogotá mayor and former guerilla fighter Gustavo Pedro has now assumed power.

To help us unpack how we got here and what to expect next from both Colombia, Germany and the European Union, in this episode, podcast host and lead blogger, Michael Buchsbaum, interviews Latin American expert and Deutsche Welle reporter and correspondent, Judit Alonso.

Shownotes:

Click here for background information on links between Colombia’s civil war and coal and fossil fuel extraction.

Click here to read more about Scholz’ phone call to Duque.

Click here to read stories and see images of how mining and development is impacting Colombia’s Wayuu indigenous people.

Click here to read more about the new government’s tax reform plans.

You can play the episode below, and it’s also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Audio from the podcast was mixed and edited by audio expert Christian Kreymborg.

 

Colombian Conundrum: Global demand for its fossil fuels face pleas for reform

A year ago, production of Colombian “blood coal” was falling, the future of the massive El Cerrejon mine was uncertain, and a growing list of nations were banning it’s import. But following Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and a personal call by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the nation’s then president, Ivan Duque, today Colombia’s miners are expanding their operations, shipping increasing volumes to the European Union and enjoying record profits. But recently elected reform-minded President Gustavo Petro and Goldman Environmental Prize-winning vice-president Francia Marquez aim to address land redistribution, a shift to renewables and an end to fossil fuel production. Still reeling from decades of civil war, mired in energy poverty and international debt, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum begins a series reviewing Colombia’s energy conundrum.

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