EU must not ‘fall back’ to coal burning – EU Commission

Ursula von der Leyen warned against returning to dirty fossil fuel use amid tensions with Russia

The EU should not fall back on coal and neglect its climate change targets to replace Russian gas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

“We need to make sure we use this crisis to move forward and not fall back on dirty fossil fuels,” von der Leyen told the Financial Times on Monday.

“It’s a thin line and it’s not clear whether we’re going to take the right exit.”

Von der Leyen said EU countries must continue “huge investments in renewable energy sources.”

She added that Brussels has put in place “emergency measures” to respond to the threat of dwindling supplies from Russia, such as saving energy and prioritizing which industries receive gas.

In March, the commission announced the goal of phasing out Russian gas by 2030. The decision was made as part of sanctions against Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, which began in late February.

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Another EU state returns to coal

However, EU members such as Germany have repeatedly warned that an immediate ban on Russian energy will seriously damage their economies.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Sunday that coal-fired power stations should be used instead of gas to generate electricity, and that more gas should be pumped into storage facilities. “Otherwise it will be very cramped in the winter”, he said. “That is bitter, but in this situation it is simply necessary to reduce gas consumption.”

Habeck’s comments appear to be very different from the climate change plan unveiled by the government in January, which aims to increase Germany’s share of renewable energy to 80% by 2030.

His statement came after Russian gas company Gazprom announced last week that it would reduce flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for technical reasons.
The Netherlands said Monday it would also lift restrictions on burning coal. A similar plan was rolled out by Austria.