“Buying Russian goods now means paying for the murder of people,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned this week as his country resists a growing Russian invasion. With the numbers of Ukrainians killed increasing every day, he launched this prayer to try to make up for the lack of military support on the ground from Europe and the United States.
Beyond the vodka, Zelensky was mainly referring to energy, that strategic resource that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, treasures up his sleeve, aware that he is one of his greatest geopolitical aces. Since it declared war on Ukraine last week, we Europeans have begun to realize how urgent it is to stop depending on its gas and oil.
Although we in Spain are fortunate to stand out as one of the European countries least dependent on Russia’s energy resources, some of our neighbours, such as Germany, Poland and Latvia have it much more complicated. And Putin knows it.
What he perhaps did not expect is that the West would react by taking risks of supply shortages and, more importantly, by acting against its own climate goals. Rather than bow to pressure, the European Union has slammed the table, rethinking its entire energy generation and import strategy.
The problem is that the most viable energy alternatives to meet short-term demand are also the most polluting. In the case of Germany, Bloomberg points out that the Government is considering extending the use of coal. This is a movement diametrically contrary to its energy transition plans and will probably prevent it from fulfilling its commitment to reduce emissions.
What Putin may not have expected is that the West would react by taking risks of supply shortages and acting against its climate goals.
The option of do not back down in the face of Russian threats It represents a strategic brake on the advance of troops and political support for Ukraine, which could translate into saved lives. But it’s important to remember that global warming poses a risk to many more people (as long as Putin doesn’t push the nuclear button, of course).
Almost half of the world’s population is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to the latest UN report, published this week. And, as if that were not enough, it concludes that its current adverse effects are more serious and widespread than expected, and that profound and urgent measures are needed if we hope to have any chance of combating them.
In other words, while more and more people live exposed to more diseases, floods, fires and droughts, the world is intensifying its commitment to the energies that contribute most to these disasters. In Germany, even the Greens have expressed support for increasing coal production to reduce their dependence on Russia.
In this war scenario, it is understandable that the fight against the climate emergency pales before the possibility of reducing the number of Ukrainian victims and reducing the power of Putin. And, although it makes sense in the short term, the great opportunity in the medium and long term continues to be in intensifying investment in renewable and clean energies.
The great opportunity in the medium and long term continues to be in intensifying investment in renewable and clean energies
Spain has already lost too many years without betting enough on them, despite our wonderful generation conditions. So the time is now. Of course, in addition to the political commitment, brave investors are needed. And what better bet could they make than one capable of reducing our energy dependency while accelerating our decarbonization?
For now, all eyes are focused on our regasification facilities, given their enormous potential to help Europe and Spain in the short term. But financing to increase our renewable generation capacity and the recycling of obsolete installations not only cannot be stopped, it is the only winning strategy to resist future threats, be they geopolitical or climatic.
So where are the investors and entrepreneurs? In front of the chef José Andrés, who is risking his life to support Ukraine by offering meals from the Polish border, the silence of the rest of the Spanish leaders in the face of the energy threat that hangs over us all is surprising.
In the meantimeZelenski resists already become a hero for the West, as well as their soldiers and civilians who have decided to stay and fight for their country. And where are our heroes? It may sound exaggerated, but right now, betting on a greener future could be the most heroic act we can do from here.