Nations 'united' in seeking to cut Russian oil, gas imports

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US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, speaks during the closing media conference at the International Energy Agency (IEA) ministerial meeting in Paris, Thursday, March 24, 2022. The meeting comes at a critical time for the global economy and energy markets following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS – Dozens of nations, including the United States and much of Europe, say they are united in seeking to “radically” reduce imports of Russian oil and gas after its invasion of Ukraine, while ensuring those efforts don’t fuel climate change.

At a two-day meeting of the International Energy Agency chaired by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, governments floated a raft of ideas to cut energy use, tap new supplies of gas, oil and coal beyond Russia, and ramp up the use of renewable power.

The 31 global energy ministers attending in Paris were “united in seeing how we can do what we can to both increase supply, adopt efficiency measures" and accelerate the transition to renewables, Granholm said at the meeting’s conclusion Thursday.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said member countries were pursuing separate energy policies, but with “one single target: reducing, radically, Russian oil and gas imports.”

Granholm said the Biden administration had pressed domestic oil producers to increase supply and that “there is a response by the oil and gas market." On the meeting's opening day, Granholm said the government told American energy companies to increase production “where and whenever they can, right now" and that the U.S. was doing its utmost to offer liquefied natural gas to countries seeking to wean themselves off Russian supplies.

“We’re exporting every molecule ... of natural gas that can be liquefied at a terminal that exists," Granholm said.

At the same time, countries should be conscious of the need not to increase greenhouse gas emissions by burning more fossil fuel, particularly heavily polluting coal, in their bid to replace Russian energy supplies, officials said. Birol warned that “the fight against climate change shouldn’t be a victim of Russia’s invasion.”

Recent scientific reports show the world is on track to hurtle past the 1.5-degree-Celsius (2.7-Fahrenheit) threshold set in the 2015 Paris climate accord and may well pass the less ambitious 2-degree limit unless tougher emissions cuts are made in the coming years. Experts warn that every tenth of a degree of warming increases the risk of serious effects.

The IEA presented a 10-point plan last week that it said could significantly cut oil use in Europe. It included proposals for car-free Sundays, lower speed limits and avoiding car and plane travel where possible.

Birol noted that recent figures showed the global emissions increase last year was the highest in the history, as economies rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic.