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NATO & Climate Change ; By Subhadip Mondal

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Article 31/2022

The NATO summit of 2022 has been a one-of-a-kind event. Summit was shadowed by the impact of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine & Russia, and, under these circumstances, the defense alliance adopted the new Strategic Concept. For the first time, the concept accepted Russia as a challenge to the Alliance’s interests and values.[i] Besides this, the Strategic Concept highlighted the impact of climate change and advocated for collective efforts and investments to mitigate its effects. But this was not the first time world leaders had promised to work toward saving the planet in a world forum. Under this circumstance, this article provides an opportunity to analyze the actions taken by the major powers to mitigate the energy crisis caused by the ongoing war.

For a long time, the European countries have depended on the Russian energy supply. For instance, for a long time, Moscow has contributed more than fifty percent of Berlin’s gas requirement. This dependency has caused great anxiety among the European nations, as even though they were advocation for strong sanctions upon Moscow, Kremlin still has sole control over the gas pedal for Europe. Then as the long-drawn war started to shoot the prices in the energy market, the western countries began to feel more heat than Russia. These complex interconnected scenarios pushed the politicians of western countries off the rail, and thereby they began to scrabble for actions so that they could ensure their energy security. The following section looks into the countries’ steps to ensure energy security and that they have promised measures to restrict climate change. The countries that are considered are among the significant contributors to NATO.

France

During the COP26 conference, the primary power participants strongly advocated against the use of coal. This is because of this lobby; it became the first-ever COP which explicitly targeted action against fossil fuels.[ii] The major powers like France made calls for a “phasedown of unabated coal” and “phase-out” of “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies. But due to the lobby by countries like India, the final accord adopted by the attainders of the conference had a toned-down version regarding the use of coal. Paris, in that conference, pledged to appease a “zero coal” policy, and by the end of this year, it was supposed to decommission all its coal-based power generation units. All these pledges and roadmaps were tossed off as the Ukraine crisis unfolded. Emmanuel Macron’s government jump-started its coal power plants to sideline the impact of the Ukraine war-induced energy crisis.[iii] Besides this, Macron had pledged to increase the number of nuclear power plants. This had been his poll promise for his second term.

Germany

Berlin has been on anxiety medication since the beginning of the war. On the one hand, it is pushing hard to give Moscow the most robust resistive answer. On the other hand, it has been scumbling hard to secure alternative sources to ensure energy security. The situation came down to this: Germany had long ignored experts’ calls and continued to depend on a single country for essential requirements. After the crisis started to unfold, Berlin tried to reduce its dependency by searching for a new partner. For instance, Germany made a deal with Qatar to supply LPG, but the deal value not be achieved before 2024.[iv] This is why Berlin couldn’t resist going into a tailspin as soon as the Nord Stream gas pipeline was decommissioned for ten days. Even though this was part of pre-planned yearly maintenance, German leaders assumed Russia would find loopholes to restrict the flow for longer. The gasping situation of Berlin has already ensured a swift turn back from the anti-Russian bloc. Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, has long blamed the Canadian government’s action for last month’s reduction in the flow of gas through the Nord Stream pipeline. As per the accusation put forward by Gazprom, a Nord Stream turbine, after repairing, was grounded by Toronto under the pretext of sanctions; because of that, the flow was reduced by 60 per cent. But, on July 10, Canada returned the turbine to the concerned company. Keeping all this context, it will be interesting to recall their pledge for the COP26. As per its commitment, it was supposed to terminate all its financial inputs toward using foreign fossil fuels.[v]

United States

On one side Ukraine crisis has skyrocketed gas prices, and on the other side, US President Biden could not get the infrastructural deal he promised during the poll. These factors have affected Democrats’ bids for the upcoming midterm, as inflation has lowered his approval rating.[vi] Under these circumstances, President is running from poll to post to secure an opportunity to lower the price. As fuel prices started to climb, Biden reached out to OPEC nations to pump more crude oils to stabilize the market, which declined. Then the US had to release barrels from its reserve stock into the market to stabilize its domestic oil market price.[vii] Washington even had to provide tax relief on gas prices, but all these seem to have little to no effect in controlling the fuel prices. Having the mid-term at the door, July 13 marked the inception of Biden’s 3-day visit to West Asia. This is historic as this visit is the first-ever visit in the region by the 46th. Getting energy security for the US is one of the significant agendas of the visit. This historical event seems to gain traction as OPCE+ countries have agreed to pump more crude oil.[viii] The last pit stop of Biden’s journey appears to be more controversial than others, as that would be in Saudi Arabia.

At the beginning of his role in the White House, he released the intelligence report regarding the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He condemned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the killing of the journalist. But now, the report regarding Biden’s visit confirms that US President will meet MBS face-to-face during his visit to Riyad. This is not the first time the US had to retrieve from its previous position to ensure energy security in the face of the unfolding Ukraine crisis. Apart from this, he pushed for the extraction of more carbon-based whereas, at COP26, he promised the US to be a role model for other countries in measures taken to reduce the causes of climate change.

European Union

The 195 attendees’ countries of the COP26 conference pledged to keep the average global temperature change below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C,[ix] thereby taking measures in that direction. A similar pledge was taken by the Union of Western countries, i.e., the European Union (EU). As the previous proceedings have exhibited, under the Ukraine crisis, governments have bounced back from their last position, and the EU is no exception. EU parliament has passed a new bill. As per the bill, investments made in gas and nuclear power plants will be treated as climate-friendly, and thereby under the 2023 taxonomy, these investments will come under the header of green.[x]

Conclusion

EU’s move to include Nuclear and Gas under green investments will only help countries like France as Macron is ramping up to open more nuclear power plants. The actual cost of this investment is being paid by the citizens of the countries from where the raw materials for these nuclear plants will be imported. As rich countries compete to gain more carbon-based energy resources to ensure their energy security, they have tossed out all the prospects of protecting the environment. This will increase extreme weather events like prolonged and persisting droughts, untimely heavy rains, and much more. The impact of such events is more on those countries or individuals with constraints on economy and resources. Similarly, within the country, people who are underprivileged or have a lesser income they get affected more than the affluent.

Over the last decade, the occurrence of extreme weather events has increased. This should have rung the alarm among the country leaders throughout the globe instead, and they should have acted to protect the environment. Instead, they make limelight with words that look good as headlines or speeches like all the countries working together as a collective unit to protect all human species. But the reality comes out when a crisis erupts as all the countries start to act to fulfill their personal goals.

Due to the prolonged war, many countries have started to spend more on their military expenditure, and even new fronts have started to push for a collective army like the EU is gathering motion to have its army. Similarly, countries should treat climate change as a threat to their national security and start to act accordingly.

(Mr. Subhadip Mondal is a research officer at C3S. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of C3S.)

References:

[ii] “COP26: Key Outcomes Agreed at the UN Climate Talks in Glasgow.” Carbon Brief, 7 Dec. 2021, https://www.carbonbrief.org/cop26-key-outcomes-agreed-at-the-un-climate-talks-in-glasgow/.

[iii] Desai, Shweta. “France Likely to Restart Coal-Fired Power Plant to Deal with Energy Crisis Fueled by Ukraine War.” Anadolu Ajansı,

[iv] Al Jazeera. “Germany, Qatar Sign Energy Partnership Agreement.” Oil and Gas News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 20 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/20/germany-qatar-sign-energy-partnership-agreement.

[vi] Lucas, Rob. “The Link between Gas Prices and Presidential Approval Ratings.” Michigan Journal of Economics, 2 May 2022, https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/mje/2022/05/02/the-link-between-gas-prices-and-presidential-approval-ratings/.

[vii] Northam, Jackie. “Getting More Oil from Saudi Arabia or the UAE Could Require U.S. Concessions.” NPR, NPR, 31 Mar. 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/03/30/1089774493/us-oil-saudi-arabia-uae-opec-russia.

[viii] Lefebvre, Ben. “OPEC+ Agrees to Pump More Oil Ahead of Possible Biden Middle East Trip.” POLITICO, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/02/opec-agrees-to-pump-more-oil-ahead-of-possible-biden-middle-east-trip-00036694.

[ix] “Press Corner.” European Commission – European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_6021.

[x] Abnett, Kate. “EU Parliament Backs Labelling Gas and Nuclear Investments as Green.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 6 July 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/eu-parliament-vote-green-gas-nuclear-rules-2022-07-06/.

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