In a rush to replace Russian gas, the EU has damaged its own climate change strategy

(The Conversation, 18 Mar 2022) The European Union’s recent proposals to end imports of Russian gas before 2030 in the wake of the Ukraine invasion are blighted by the bloc’s support for unnecessary and expensive technologies.

The race to replace Russian imports, which make up 40% of the EU’s gas supply, has focused the minds of EU leaders on climate solutions that favour replacement gases, such as hydrogen and biogas in heating. The more efficient solution would be to swap fossil fuel burning boilers for alternatives that run on electricity, such as heat pumps. These new proposals supplement the original 2030 climate target plan, published in September 2020.

The new proposals, which aim to end EU demand for Russian gas through securing new suppliers and fast-tracking the roll-out of “renewable gases” to phase out natural gas in space heating, have been highly praised. The New York Times said they will “speed up climate action”.

In fact, it is not clear that the new proposals will accelerate the clean energy transition. This is because incentivising farmers, multinational oil and gas companies and energy utilities to produce hydrogen and biogas is likely to increase consumer bills at a time when many people are already struggling with the soaring cost of heating and electricity. That, in turn, might reduce funding available for measures that can cut emissions more efficiently.

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The Conversation, 18 Mar 2022: In a rush to replace Russian gas, the EU has damaged its own climate change strategy