Ukraine war: boost or setback for climate efforts?

Nov 3, 2022, 12:06 AM | Updated: 6:47 am
Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Analyst...

Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Analysts say the war has accelerated the path toward clean energy in Europe as the continent works to wean itself off Russian supplies, although there are concerns from climate hawks this isn't happening fast enough. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

(AP Photo/Michael Probst)

BERLIN (AP) — Luetzerath may be 1,000 miles from Ukraine, but it is an indirect victim of Russia’s invasion and some fear so is Earth’s climate.

The ancient hamlet in western Germany will soon be demolished along with a wind park to expand a nearby coal mine, despite protests from environmentalists who fear millions more tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere.

Their concerns were echoed recently by Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, who warned that “the horrors of the war in Ukraine should not put climate action on the back burner.”

“Doubling down on fossil fuels is not the answer,” he wrote on Twitter. “The only path to energy security, stable power prices and a livable planet lies in accelerating the renewable energy transition.”

But Germany’s center-left government says the war in Ukraine means tough decisions need to be made on energy security and insists the nation’s climate goals will be kept.

Luetzerath’s days may be numbered, but the planet will be saved, officials argue.

Similar scenes are playing out across the world as countries try to fend off a feared energy crunch without betraying their long-term commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The question of whether the conflict in Ukraine will hasten or hinder the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy needed to keep global temperatures from reaching dangerous heights looms large ahead of next week’s U.N. climate conference.

In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, officials point to new programs they say will massively increase sun and wind power generation. An even bigger plan by the European Union to wean itself off Russian gas could further boost the bloc’s already-ambitious emissions reduction targets this decade, said Rachel Simon, a policy expert at campaign group CAN Europe.

In the United States, President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has earmarked $375 billion for climate incentives that would slash the cost of installing renewable energy and shrink U.S. carbon emissions by as much as two-fifths until 2030.

Climate hawks say that won’t be enough.

While greenhouse gas emissions are rising more slowly than before, recent reports show the trend remains upward when it needs to point sharply down. Rising fossil fuel subsidies to cushion the impact of high energy prices and efforts to tap new sources of gas, oil and coal will further drive up emissions, at least in the short term.

This means the amount of carbon dioxide that can still be released into the atmosphere before the world hits the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) warming — agreed in the 2015 Paris climate accord — is being used up rapidly, expert say.

“It’s incredibly risky because not only does it reduce even further the carbon budget, it sends exactly the wrong signals” said Johan Rockstrom, head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

Meanwhile, climate impacts already being felt worldwide — from fierce storms in the U.S. to extreme heat in Europe and worsening droughts in Africa — are hitting the poor hardest. Devastating floods in Pakistan have fueled calls for developing nations to receive climate compensation from big polluters.

Laden with debt and surging inflation, many vulnerable nations now find themselves struggling to pay for energy, let alone adapt to the effects of a warmer world, even as rich countries splurge on imports and new fossil fuel projects.

Experts say this could inflame tensions in Sharm el-Sheikh, undermining trust during the two-week U.N. talks that rely on consensus by all countries for any formal decision.

Russia could add further fuel to the fire. The world’s biggest exporter of natural gas is at loggerheads with the West since its invasion of Ukraine, while China, the biggest-emitting country, insists it also has a right to burn more coal.

Even if negotiations by the Red Sea produce little progress, experts are hopeful the war in Ukraine has jolted complacent governments into speeding up the transition from fossil fuels to clean power.

The war is “the perfect storm” for an accelerated path toward clean energy, said Rockstrom.

Laurie Bristow, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, said the measures now being taken by countries such as Germany were encouraging because they end not just the decades-long reliance on Russian gas but commit to a much larger energy transition.

“It’s the recognition that things could not go on as they were before,” he said. “And there are very big, very serious policy decisions in there.”

That’s little consolation to Elizabeth Wathuti, a Kenyan environmentalist, who visited Germany’s Garzweiler coal mine near Luetzerath with other activists last month.

“I’ve been very overwhelmed to see what is happening right behind me,” she said during the visit.

Wathuti said she couldn’t understand how Germany could justify burning more coal when the impacts of climate change are already becoming apparent.

“For my community and for my country, this is a life and death situation,” she told The Associated Press. “We cannot afford to continue investing in fossil fuels at the expense of people’s lives and livelihoods who have even done the least to cause this crisis.”

“If anything, it’s only going to cause more devastation and more losses, more damages to my community,” she said.

___

Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

___

Bram Janssen in Luetzerath, Germany, and Dana Beltaji in London contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Analysts say the war has accelerated the path toward clean energy in Europe as the continent works to wean itself off Russian supplies, although there are concerns from climate hawks this isn't happening fast enough. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              FILE - A woman works at a coal depot in Ahmedabad, India, May 2, 2022. The question of whether the conflict in Ukraine will hasten or hinder the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy needed to keep global temperatures from reaching dangerous heights looms large ahead of next week's U.N. climate conference. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)
            
              FILE - A gas pipeline stands over the road leading to a destroyed coal mine in the middle of a minefield at the frontline near Mar'inka, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Analysts say the war has accelerated the path toward clean energy in Europe as the continent works to wean itself off Russian supplies, although there are concerns from climate hawks this isn't happening fast enough. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov, File)
            
              A bucket wheel excavator is mining coal at the Garzweiler open-cast coal mine with wind mills in the background in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. In background the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Steam rises from the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Analysts say the war has accelerated the path toward clean energy in Europe as the continent works to wean itself off Russian supplies, although there are concerns from climate hawks this isn't happening fast enough. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              FILE - A woman works at a coal depot in Ahmedabad, India, May 2, 2022. The question of whether the conflict in Ukraine will hasten or hinder the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy needed to keep global temperatures from reaching dangerous heights looms large ahead of next week's U.N. climate conference. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)
            
              FILE - A gas pipeline stands over the road leading to a destroyed coal mine in the middle of a minefield at the frontline near Mar'inka, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Analysts say the war has accelerated the path toward clean energy in Europe as the continent works to wean itself off Russian supplies, although there are concerns from climate hawks this isn't happening fast enough. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov, File)
            
              A bucket wheel excavator is mining coal at the Garzweiler open-cast coal mine with wind mills in the background in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. In background the coal-fired power plant Niederaussem. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              FILE - Activists Luisa Neubauer, from Germany, right, and Elizabeth Wathuti, from Kenya, talk to the media at a news conference at the Garzweiler open-cast coal mine near Luetzerath, western Germany, Sunday Oct. 16, 2022. About 1,000 miles away from Ukraine, Luetzerath is an indirect victim of the war as the town will soon make way for the expansion of a nearby coal mine. Wathuti said she couldn’t understand how Germany could justify burning more coal when the impacts of climate change are already becoming apparent. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
            
              FILE - A flock of sheep graze in front of a coal-fired power plant at the Garzweiler open-cast coal mine near Luetzerath, western Germany, Sunday Oct. 16, 2022. About 1,000 miles away from Ukraine, Luetzerath is an indirect victim of the war as the town will soon make way for the expansion of a nearby coal mine. Environmentalists have been up in arms about the decision which would pump millions more tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the air. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

AP

Associated Press

Police fatally shoot man who allegedly had gun in St. Paul

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say an officer fatally shot a man who they say displayed a handgun as they were trying to arrest him. The St. Paul Police Department said Tuesday that officers were responding to a domestic assault Monday evening and were told by the caller that the man had […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Foundations, major donors tackle nation’s nursing shortage

As more nurses leave their jobs in hospitals and health-care centers, foundations are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to ensure that more stay in the profession and get more out of the job than just the applause and pats on the back they got during the bleakest days of the pandemic. Philanthropic pledges announced […]
8 hours ago
Brendan Fraser poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, to promote his film "T...
Associated Press

Brendan Fraser is back. But to him, ‘I was never far away’

NEW YORK (AP) — In a darkened hotel room in New York’s Soho neighborhood, Brendan Fraser kindly greets a reporter with an open plastic bag in his hand. “Would you like a gummy bear?” Fraser, the 54-year-old actor, is in many ways an extremely familiar face to encounter. Here is the once ubiquitous ’90s presence […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev poses for a picture during an interview on July 28, 2021, in New Yo...
Associated Press

Robinhood takes on retirement in search for more growth

NEW YORK (AP) — Robinhood, the company that blazed onto Wall Street after turning millions of novices into investors by making trading fun, is now setting its sights on a more staid corner of the industry: saving for retirement. The company on Tuesday is initiating signups for a retirement program, where customers can sock savings […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct...
Associated Press

Meta oversight board urges changes to VIP moderation system

LONDON (AP) — Facebook parent Meta’s quasi-independent oversight board said Tuesday that an internal system that exempted high-profile users, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, from some or all of its content moderation rules needs a major overhaul. The report by the Oversight Board, which was more than a year in the making, said the […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Pope tightens oversight of Vatican-linked foundations

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Tuesday tightened control and oversight over Vatican-based foundations and associations in his latest effort to impose international standards of accounting and governance on Vatican offices and affiliated entities. A new law aims to bring the Holy See into further compliance with recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Moneyval […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Ukraine war: boost or setback for climate efforts?