The International Energy Agency, the world's global energy policy advisory organization, has just released a ten point plan that could significantly reduce reliance on Russian natural gas.
The plan, if enacted could reduce reliance on Russian natural gas by more than one-third within the year, the agency said. And it would fit within the broader goals for Europe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the continent's "European Green Deal".
Europe receives around 40% of the energy it uses in the form of natural gas that's piped in from Russia -- while the region has a goal of ending its use of fossil fuels by 2050, the crisis created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlights the need to end reliance on foreign fossil fuels much more quickly.
“Nobody is under any illusions anymore. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon show Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, in a statement. “Europe needs to rapidly reduce the dominant role of Russia in its energy markets and ramp up the alternatives as quickly as possible.”
The ten points actually can be boiled down to a few steps, cut energy use by encouraging people to lower their thermostats in the winter, shore up alternative supplies of natural gas, deploy as many energy efficiency technologies as possible, and build up alternative, zero-emission energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear power.
“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a watershed moment. Next week, the [European Commission] will propose a pathway for Europe to become independent from Russian gas as soon as possible. The IEA’s analysis outlines a number of concrete steps we can take towards that goal. It is a very timely and valuable contribution to our work.”," said Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, in a statement.
If Europe were to take the IEA's advice it could reduce the European Union's imports of Russian gas by more than 50 billion cubic meters. That includes the need for refilling European gas and storage facilities in 2022, according to a statement from the agency.
The report didn't include pumping more oil or switching away from natural gas to oil as part of the solution -- primarily because they aren't aligned with Europe's stated renewable policy objectives.
There are other reasons to not return to a policy of "drill baby drill". Recent studies estimate that one in five people die every year from sickness caused by air pollution from burning fossil fuels. The ability to accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels would also limit climate change, a significant destabilizing geopolitical force in its own right.
The immediate threat that climate change poses won't diminish even if Europe does move swiftly to cut its reliance on oil and gas, but it will secure Europe's future for generations and go a long way toward making the climate crisis worse.
“More than ever, getting rid of Russian fossil fuels and of fossil fuels in general, is essential. What is at stake is both the need to accelerate the fight against climate change, and, as we can see now, the short-term energy security of the European continent," said Barbara Pompili, Minister for Ecological Transition of France, which currently holds the EU Presidency, said. "The 10-Point Plan proposed by the IEA today will enrich our thinking. We will look at these proposals in detail, as the French President announced yesterday a broad resilience plan for France. As part of this plan, my administration is working on a set of measures to ensure the robustness of our energy system, which will certainly echo the propositions of the IEA."