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The European Union is adapting to the energy crisis amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and allowing a return to coal-fired electricity production, said Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission responsible for implementing the European Green Pact, quoted by Politico Europe and Digi24.

Frans Timmermans said that countries that intend to burn coal as an alternative to Russian gas could do so in line with EU climate and decarbonisation targets.

The EU and many of its member states have strongly argued that natural gas is a cornerstone in the continent’s decarbonisation attempt to reduce the use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, and to target renewable sources.

Just a month ago, to upset climate activists, the European Commission approved the inclusion of natural gas and nuclear energy in the list of investments in the transition to decarbonisation.

“Things have changed. There are no taboos in this situation. History took a different turn last week and we need to adapt to this historic change, “said Timmermans.

“Poland and several other countries had plans to phase out coal, then temporarily use natural gas and then switch to renewable sources. If these countries exploit more coal for a long time, but then move immediately to renewable sources, it could still be within the parameters we have set for our EU climate policy “, the vice-president of the European Commission also specified.

More than a third of European gas comes from Russia. In this regard, Timmermans said that the EU must “try to give up its dependence on Russian gas much faster than it anticipated”.

To that end, the EU plans to launch a package of measures this week aimed at cushioning the short-term impact of the Russian gas supply disruption and speeding up the transition from fossil fuels.

In fact, the European Commission wants to impose an obligation on EU member states to fill their gas depots before each winter, in order to increase stocks and deal with supply disruptions.

Last Thursday, the International Energy Agency released an analysis showing that Europe could reduce Russian natural gas imports by more than a third in a year.

A “short-term option” would be to switch to gas through “increased use of the European coal fleet or the use of alternative fuels, such as oil, in existing gas-fired power plants,” the statement said. But the agency did not recommend this approach, as it would come with “significant compromises”.

Meanwhile, several Member States, including Italy and Poland, have already announced the possible reopening of coal-fired power plants.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi recently told lawmakers that “coal-fired power plants may need to be reopened to fill any short-term shortcomings” following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

For his part, a spokesman for the Polish government said the situation was “too dynamic at the moment” to assess the long-term political response. But Energy Minister Anna Moskwa told Politico Europe last week that the EU should “de-rust” its energy sector.

Frans Timmermans said that while some countries may be trying to burn coal now, “we should not slow down our transition to renewable sources, because that is what we need to avoid the other deadly danger we face, namely the climate crisis ”.

He gave the example of Germany, which is developing plans to suddenly increase its renewable energy targets. The Minister of Climate and Economy, Robert Habeck, did not rule out last Sunday the postponement of the abandonment of coal and nuclear energy, telling German public television that in such discussions “there are no taboos”.

European analysts note that the European Commission’s approach is a historic change for the EU, as Brussels and the Member States have moved in recent years to an aggressive policy of de-carbonising the energy system. However, the abandonment of extremely polluting coal has led to rising energy prices. But now, as Russia uses natural gas as a political weapon, given that it is responsible for a third of the gas used in Europe, the EU is allowing coal to return.