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Putin’s War Threatens Europe’s Ambitious Climate Goals

The EU last year proposed a radical decarbonization plan, but Russia’s invasion has forced several countries to burn more coal and build new gas facilities.

RWE’s Neurath power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany.

RWE’s Neurath power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany.

Photographer: Hans Blossey/Alamy

Last summer the European Union unveiled “Fit for 55,” a radical plan to move away from carbon-based energy, which envisions deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to meet a goal of reaching net-zero by midcentury. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has forced several countries to backpedal on decarbonization, at least in the short term, to compensate for cuts in fuel supplies from Russia.

Since Russian troops rolled across the Ukrainian border on Feb. 24, European countries have started to burn more coal, plan new liquefied natural gas terminals, and extend the region’s network of gas pipelines. “I understand some governments are having to make difficult decisions to ensure energy supplies for their citizens,” says Fatih Birol, executive director at the International Energy Agency, which just last year called for an end to new oil and gas projects. “The current strains on energy markets are painful for us all.”