Cop26: Energy wars will rumble on until supply of renewables is guaranteed

Europe needs gas, and Russia can easily provide it. Mary Dejevsky says that, despite all the political posturing, it’s still business as usual

Monday 01 November 2021 21:30
<p>The UK’s direct investment in Russia exceeded $32bn in 2020</p>

The UK’s direct investment in Russia exceeded $32bn in 2020

Just short of 200 countries are represented at Cop26 in Glasgow, many of them at head of state or head of government level. It is the biggest international gathering that the UK has hosted since the London 2012 Olympics. By the end of two weeks, it is possible, although expectations are being played down, that many obstacles will have been – at least temporarily – overcome, leaving a consensus on ways to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. So far, so just about as good as could be expected.

But the shared concerns about flooding and fires, about rising global temperatures and rising sea-levels – all summed up as the climate emergency – could very soon be replaced in the headlines by a more local and immediate emergency, as winter bears down on the northern hemisphere and tightens its annual grip on Europe. Before any of the long-term promises of Cop26 come due, some very short-term considerations of geopolitics could start to play out in potentially life-threatening ways. Or, to look on the bright side, the opposite could happen, with a recognition of the current reality governing energy supplies, which could lead to a more durable system of mutually beneficial exchange.

There is no evidence that it was anything more than chance that the run-up to Cop26 coincided with a sharp rise in the international market price of gas, which affected the UK particularly acutely and caused a clutch of smaller companies to go bust. Wholesale prices in the UK have quadrupled over the past year, while the rise in the EU has been only slightly less. But the juxtaposition served to highlight some awkward facts.

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