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.
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.
Scientists and climate activists have highlighed and warned against the significant global warming impact of fossil gas and an expansion of related infrastructure. Furthermore, analysts have also repeatedly criticized Europe’s deep dependency from Russia – created particular by Germany with the help of petrochemical giant BASF and it’s daughter Wintershall Dea. Putin’s war in Ukraine is forcing the EU now to profoundly restructure it’s energy landscape and to save gas for the coming winter. But while the public is being told to shower cold and heat less Europe is still feeding a fossil fuels hungry petrochemicals and plastics industry. Andy Gheorghiu outlines the major findings of a new report that reveals the significant dimension of this gluttony and that calls for a profound new diet for this sector.
Low-carbon technology has a Russia problem, too. And it’s going to get bigger. Higher prices, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine has Europe’s clean tech branch scrambling for non-Russian suppliers of key raw materials, such as nickel, palladium, lithium, platinum, cobalt, and neon-gas, as well as aluminium and copper. Some countries, such as the UK, have already begun to sanction them – a move the entire EU could take, if it chose to. But just about the only alternative markets that can cover rising European demand for exactly these raw materials is other authoritarian regimes. Paul Hockenos reviews.
Biomethane and biogas are increasingly turned to as alternatives for fossil gas. However, their production and distribution can still result in climate damaging methane (CH4) emissions, the magnitude of which remains unclear. A new study from the Imperial College London finds that emissions along the supply chain are much greater than previously estimated. Mitigating CH4 throughout not only fossil gas, but also biomethane and biogas supply chains is urgently needed. Lisa Tostado investigates.
In its attempt to drastically reduce its dependency on Russian oil and gas, Europe is turning to Africa. But the move is problematic, as producing fossil fuels on the continent presents its own challenges. Noah J. Gordon and Theodora Mattei have the details. This article was originally published in InternationalePolitikQuaterly.
Europe can hurt the Russian war machine – and help the climate at the same time. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a wide-ranging revamping of energy policy in Europe with a new, no-holds-barred objective: to wean the continent from Russian fossil fuels — as rapidly and comprehensively as possible — and accelerate the continent’s green energy transition. Paul Hockenos explains.
The original Bauhaus sought to create the building of the future that would unite every discipline from architecture to sculpture and painting. 100 years later, European Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen has revitalised the movement to create homes and public buildings that help cities become greener and that reconnect us with nature, based on the 3 principles of sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion. This New European Bauhaus (NEB) gives a platform for architects, artists, students, engineers and designers to work together. The Commission has created NEB prizes showcasing projects that help steer the movement towards its goals. Ciarán Cuffe, who is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Greens/EFA group, gives us some insights.
Nature conservation and wind power generation can overlap in oceans – for now.
The circular economy constitutes an energy-efficient economic model for a European economy of the 21st century. Paul Hockenos has the details.