EU countries have imported more than €100bn worth of coal, oil and gas from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February, as part of the bloc’s higher overall consumption of fossil fuels so far in 2022, an independent Helsinki-based research group has estimated.
While Europe continued to pay as much to Russia for gas as it did in the first half of 2021 due to skyrocketing prices, it received a fraction of the gas, said the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea).
But the bloc’s estimated overall 11 per cent drop in total gas consumption in the first half of the year was counterbalanced by an increase in the use of oil products by 8 per cent, hard coal by 7 per cent, and lignite by 12 per cent, based on data from the Eurostat government agency.
As a result, EU carbon dioxide emissions were likely to have increased by about 2 per cent in the first half of the year, Crea estimated.
Globally, there was a rise in coal and gas generation in July and August as record drought and heatwaves pushed up electricity demand, the think-tank Ember reported recently.
“We can’t be sure if we’ve reached peak coal and gas in the power sector. Global power sector emissions are still pushing all-time highs when they need to be falling very quickly. And the same fossil fuels pushing us into a climate crisis are also causing the global energy crisis.” said Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, Senior Electricity Analyst at Ember.
The EU remains the largest importer of fossil fuels from Russia even though overall volumes have halved since the start of the invasion.
The €100bn milestone highlights how Moscow has continued to draw revenue from the same nations seeking to isolate it. While EU gas imports decreased significantly, and coal imports have now ceased since sanctions came into force in August, Crea estimates the EU still imports around €260mn worth of Russian fossil fuels per day.
“While capping prices and limiting imports from Russia, it’s essential for European countries to accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. This year has revealed the reliance on fossil fuels as a fundamental national security and economic vulnerability,” said Crea lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta.
Indian and Chinese oil buying has also offset most of the fall in Russian shipments to Europe, a recent Financial Times analysis of available data shows, with the biggest volume growth coming from India.
Egypt, which relies on grain shipments from Russia and Ukraine, had also emerged as a significant buyer, Crea reported. This runs counter to its status as host country for the next UN climate change summit.
It was the next biggest fossil fuel importer since the invasion behind the EU, China, Turkey, India, South Korea and Japan.
Egyptian imports of oil peaked in July, up from almost zero before the invasion, Crea said. Similar to India, Russian oil exported to Egypt was often re-exported elsewhere, it added.
In mid-September, the European Commission published new guidance that the transfer of certain goods, including coal, from Russia to third countries “should be allowed to combat food and energy insecurity around the world.”
A ban on EU imports of Russian coal began on August 10, following a wind-down period of four months. However, Crea notes that EU member states failed to enforce a provision in the ban that prohibited EU-owned ships from transporting coal from Russia to third countries.
But Russia’s coal exports have regained about half of the loss of the EU market, with Turkey and India taking more coal. India imported almost no fossil fuel from Russia before the invasion.
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