On May 27, 2022, Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers from the Group of Seven issued a communiqué that details their plan to confront “the multiple crises” endangering the climate and environment. As a part of this plan, the G7 harshly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for causing “tragic human suffering,” “severe environmental harm,” and disruption of global markets.
The communiqué comes after G7 leaders unanimously committed to phase out their nations’ dependency on Russian energy. By banning the import of Russian oil, G7’s European members will severely curtail a major source of funding for Russia’s war. European nations currently consume 70% of Russia’s gas exports and 50% of its oil exports. The European Union has welcomed the International Energy Agency’s 10-Point Plan to reduce reliance on Russian natural gas and cut oil use, as well as the European Commission’s REPower Plan to phase out fossil fuel dependence.
Among the mechanisms the G7 hopes to implement is to work with OPEC and other providers to diversify their energy sources and ensure “stable and sustainable global energy supplies.” Additionally, the members stressed the importance of increasing deliveries of liquefied natural gas to European markets to mitigate supply disruptions, and providing financial support for companies and citizens affected by the “severely” rising prices for fossil fuels. The members recognized these measures to be inconsistent with their obligations under the Paris Agreement, stipulating that they be regarded as temporary, “targeted” measures.
The G7 summit and communiqué are indicative of a shift in the global energy discourse caused by Russia’s warmaking. When Russia first invaded Ukraine, investors in the crude oil commodity market predicted a rise in oil prices as a result of instability in the region. When Western nations placed sanctions on Russia in an attempt to stop the war, prices jumped again. Now, with independent countries and international organizations like the G7 implementing bans on energy imports, crude oil prices are expected to rise yet again, leading to a global increase in gasoline prices.
Moreover, 12% of the world’s oil supply comes from Russia. When a country places a ban on Russian crude oil, it is compelled to find ways to make up the deficit. This has sparked a discussion about alternative energy sources.
There are two main narratives laying out possible responses to war-related energy deficit. The first argues for the exploitation of domestic fossil fuel resources. However, there are issues with this proposition. Extraction processes like drilling and fracking are disruptive to ecosystems. Burning oil exacerbates global warming, water pollution, and air pollution. Some countries, including the United States, lack the infrastructure needed for efficient refining of domestically produced oil. The increased crude oil supply might be exported, but this would not mitigate the issue of soaring fuel prices.
The second narrative advocates for an accelerated shift towards cleaner, renewable, and more efficient energy sources. This approach would direct countries’ focus away from fossil fuel supply problems, toward diversified energy resources.
The G7 communiqué appears to favor the latter approach, declaring a commitment to “accelerating the clean energy transition” and “working together to ensure the diversification of energy and related critical mineral sources, supplies, routes, and means of transport.” However, the communiqué contains no commitment to phasing out oil and natural gas from non-Russian sources. This leaves open the possibility that G7 members will continue to consume fossil fuels at their current rate.
Still, experts say the Russian invasion of Ukraine, coupled with already high gas prices, is accelerating the energy transition. Spain and the Netherlands were able to cut gas demand in their electricity sectors by 17% and 22%, respectively, between 2019 and 2021 by using more renewable resources. The conspicuous success of this strategy might carry to other nations. Likewise, Suzana Carp, the executive director of Carbon-Free Europe, said that the European Union’s alternative to importing Russian fossil fuels is to build up autonomous energy sources at national and international levels. She added that this will create a move towards “renewable, nuclear, and zero-carbon fuels” that will provide Europe’s energy producers with much-needed autonomy from Russia.
The reality is the G7 will need to find ways to make up for the Russian oil and gas deficit. Statistics and analysis show that a transition to renewable energy would prove beneficial for the organization. Now, we just have to hope that G7 nations stay committed to their obligations, as outlined in the communiqué, and make smart decisions surrounding future energy systems.