Despite the objections of Poland and other States in East Central Europe the project of laying a new pipeline under the Baltic sea acquires a concrete shape. The European Commission seem to consider this enterprise solely in terms of business. Meanwhile, the new pipeline will have an impact not only on Europe’s energy security and competitiveness of the energy market, but also on the environment and climate.
In October the European Commission agreed to increase the capacity of the OPAL pipeline (overland segment of the “Nord stream-1”), increasing the access of Gazprom to the European market and securing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas. The Polish government has rightly challenged this decision in the European court (he held that until the claim enforcement of the decision of the Commission should be suspended).
Incorrect environmental arguments
Although “Nord stream-2” will be held, in particular, through the Kurgalsky reserve, and it violates international treaties on environmental protection, the Russians justify the need for investment, in particular, the environmental arguments. Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Gazprom” Alexei Miller said that Nord stream will contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. How is that possible?
The pipeline will supply Europe with 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. As suggested by Miller, this volume is enough to produce the same amount of energy that 225 units of coal-fired plants with a capacity of 400 megawatts (as near Krakow power plant “Skawina”). The arguments are as follows: the combustion gas is released in two times less carbon dioxide than burning coal, so the benefit is for the climate are obvious. However, this distorts the truth propaganda.
Miller forgot to add that the burning of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year — 106 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. About as much as is the volume of greenhouse gas emissions in the Czech Republic or a third of emissions in Poland (all sectors give us a year to 300 million tons of carbon dioxide per year).
To compare one fossil fuel with another, proving that the second poisoning the planet smaller, and, therefore, can be called “ecological” is a PR trick that has long been used by mining companies around the world. I must say straight gas refers to clean sources of energy, and 106 million tons of CO2 per year is still 106 million tons too much. The more that Europe does not need gas.
Demand will decline
The need for this fuel is reduced. Over the past ten years, the European Commission reduced its forecasts for demand for gas in the EU at 23%. According to the International energy Agency, demand for gas in Europe by 2030 will be reduced by 30%. In turn, Cambridge Intitute for Sustainable Leadership estimates that the existing terminals for liquefied natural gas use by one third of their capacity, and piping — 60%. As suggested by the British think tank E3G, the utilization level of gas infrastructure associated with the arrival on the market of technologies of use of renewable energy sources and the development of demand response systems.
Risky dominance of fossil fuels
Investments in the “Nord stream-2” cannot be evaluated in isolation from the heightened climate crisis, which in particular leads to growing waves of migration. The Paris climate agreement requires every five years to set increasingly ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If the EU wants seriously to meet its obligations, its policy should not be limited to the control of emissions of coal-fired power plants. “Nord stream-2” maybe decades to fix the continent’s dominance of fossil fuels.
The Russian project “Northern stream-2” threatens long-term European energy and climate policy, including the fact that it contributes to the EU split. State in East-Central Europe need to block this investment, accusing the European Commission in that it uses double standards in the protection of the environment and competition. On the subject of the inconsistencies of this project the objectives of the energy Union, which should be based on solidarity and fair competition in the domestic gas market and have written thousands of pages. To repeat here those arguments makes no sense.
The facts are that the European Union is now 40% dependent on Russian gas supplies. The fact that the European Commission condones the Russian pipeline monopoly in the domestic gas market, does not bring us neither the competition nor the economy with low carbon emissions.
The use Directive on the conservation of natural habitats
It should be noted that the European Commission has a set of tools that should be used for protection of the environment, climate and market. On the “Nord stream-2”, as each of the potentially hazardous nature of the investment, subject to stringent requirements related to the assessment of the impact on the environment, including in a transboundary context.
In this case, should also apply provisions of the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna, which, according to the verdict of the European court in Luxembourg, extends to territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of member countries of the EU. Thus the project “Nord stream-2” must be assessed from the point of view of European law in the field of energy, environmental protection, competition and climate.
A double threat, true to the government’s response
“Nord stream-2” is one of the few projects that threatens simultaneously the energy and climate security of the peoples of the European Union. The reaction to this investment will be a test for European institutions, member countries of the EU and civil society in Europe.
The claim of the Polish government, challenging the decision of the European Commission via the ground segment of the “North stream”, is one of the few recent decisions of this office, which must obtain the support of the international environmental community.
Marcin Stoczkiewicz — member of the Board of the Foundation ClientEarth Lawyers for the earth.