BRUSSELS: The senior European Union official on Wednesday urged the 27 member countries to wean themselves off natural gas not only to accelerate the transition to clean energy, but also to make the bloc a more independent player in the world.
On the eve of an EU summit focused on the energy crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told lawmakers that since the bloc imports 90% of its gas – largely from Russia strategic rival – “it makes us vulnerable”.
As a result, she wants the EU to redouble its efforts for a swift transition to clean energy from wind and sun, which can be produced domestically and will ultimately be much cheaper than imported fossil fuels.
The recent spike in gas prices first hit the most vulnerable families in the EU, and von der Leyen again called on member states to ensure that energy taxes and levies could be adjusted to protect the poorest European citizens.
But von der Leyen also touched on the topic of the strategic importance of being less dependent on imports. Even though a partner country like Norway increased its exports to the bloc to meet the increased demand, a major player did not.
“Although (Russia) Gazprom has honored its long-term contracts with us, it has not responded to higher demand, as it has in previous years. Europe is therefore today too dependent on gas, ”she declared.
As a result, the transition to clean energy was not just necessary to become energy neutral by mid-century.
“The transition to clean energy is not only vital for our planet. It is also crucial for our economy and for resilience to energy price shocks, ”she said.
It was a veiled reference to leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who specifically blamed the rise in energy prices on the European Commission’s Green Deal plans. The project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.