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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Brussels

U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, makes a statement in Brussels on March 25, 2022. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Don't Use Russia's War on Ukraine to Expand Fossil Fuels, Green Groups Tell US and EU

"Any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe will rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos, and continue the decades of harm done to frontline communities."

Jessica Corbett

Hundreds of advocacy groups on Thursday collectively called on top leaders in the United States and European Union to respond to Russia's war on Ukraine by ramping up the clean energy transition rather than expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.

"The window to avoid truly catastrophic climate impacts is rapidly closing."

The letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, signed by over 200 organizations, comes as diplomatic efforts to end the assault have stalled and as the United States is further arming Ukrainians.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a terrible humanitarian crisis and we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine," the letter begins, before turning to the energy security task force unveiled in March, when Biden pledged to boost gas shipments to Europe.

"While we applaud efforts to end the import of Russian oil and gas and to reduce demand for gas," the document states, "we are very concerned that the framework of this agreement will lead to more fossil fuel infrastructure and fracking, while propping up fossil fuel industry scams such as carbon capture and fossil fuel-based hydrogen."

Advocating for the task force to craft a plan that would not authorize any additional fossil fuel development and fully transition the U.S. and E.U. by 2035, the letter continues:

Any expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure will further reliance on fossil fuels, which is incompatible with climate science, justice, as well as U.S. and E.U. commitments to climate leadership. We must also stress that new fossil fuel infrastructure will harm communities near fracking wells, pipelines, power plants, and LNG infrastructure. LNG infrastructure can take three years or more to come online, diverting resources away from the infrastructure investments that will actually help rapidly reduce demand for gas. Redirecting existing LNG exports, combined with energy efficiency measures and an all-out mobilization to renewable energy, could immediately address Europe's current reliance on Russian gas.

The groups cited the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report—released last week in the midst of a global mobilization of scientists, including a letter to Biden—to highlight experts' warnings that "the window to avoid truly catastrophic climate impacts is rapidly closing."

"Any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe will rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos, and continue the decades of harm done to frontline communities living near fracking wells and LNG infrastructure, including pipelines and export and import terminals," warns the letter, which also asserts that hydrogen "should not be considered as a climate solution."

Along with arguing for an end to new fossil fuel exploration, finance, infrastructure development, and permits, the letter says the U.S. and E.U. "must prioritize investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electrification," and concludes that a shift to clean power "is the pathway to true energy independence and security."

That sentiment has been shared by climate campaigners across the globe since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in February and was echoed in a Tuesday statement from representatives of the advocacy groups that signed the new letter.

"The answer to a crisis brought on by dirty, expensive fossil fuels cannot be to do more of the same and expect a different result," said Food & Water Watch policy director Jim Walsh. "It would be a climate disaster to double down on fossil fuels when we have all the available technologies to jumpstart a rapid shift towards clean renewable energy. We urge all world leaders to pursue policies that end the fossil fuel era once and for all."

John Beard, founder and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, specifically took aim at Biden, declaring that his "plans to increase gas exports are in direct contradiction to his commitment as the environmental president, to environmental justice and climate action."

"We urge all world leaders to pursue policies that end the fossil fuel era once and for all."

"Fast-tracking new gas infrastructure would only add insult to injury for communities in the Gulf Coast that have been overburdened with the toxic impacts of the fossil fuel industry for generations; over-exposed to the frequent storms and disasters driven by climate change," said Beard, inviting Biden to visit the region. "Instead of doubling down with more dirty energy, he should be doing everything he can to invest in a just recovery and an equitable transition from fossil fuels."

Across the Atlantic, Marina Gros, a gas campaigner at Ecologistas en Acción in Spain, emphasized that "an exclusively economic and short-term view cannot prevail in the face of the magnitude of the challenges we face."

"Most fossil fuels must remain in the ground," she said. "However, the E.U. is facing a false dilemma of increasing dependence on fracking gas from the U.S., which causes high impacts on communities and the climate. It is a false dilemma because with an adequate and rapid energy transition, based on reducing energy demand and changing the production and consumption system, external dependencies could be reduced and the development of new and expensive gas infrastructures would not be needed."

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