Ursula von der Leyen says Europe must invest ‘massively’ in home-grown renewables in order to bring Russian fossil fuel imports to an end

The European Commission has this afternoon revealed further details of its plans to drastically curb the continent’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, confirming it is working on plans to end all gas, oil, and coal imports from Russia by 2027.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc had a responsibility to provide a reliable, secure, and affordable supply of energy to European consumers and in the mid-term “this means getting rid of our dependency on Russian gas, by diversification of supply, by massively investing in renewables”.

She stressed that the new REPowerEU strategy that was unveiled in Brussels this week would lead to both a diversification of energy imports and an acceleration in the switch to renewables in the short term.

But she added that by mid-May the Commission would also deliver a proposal to “phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal by 2027, backed by the necessary national and European resources”.

The new plan to fully end imports of fossil fuels from Russian gas would work in conjunction with measures to protect citizens from surging energy prices, give governments the freedom to levy windfall taxes on energy companies, and increase gas storage reserves, Von der Leyen said. “This will be our insurance policy against supply disruption,” she added.

Von der Leyen’s comments confirm the EU is planning to fully end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels and for the first time propose a target date for ending all energy imports from Moscow, building on the REPowerEU strategy’s plan to cut gas imports by around two thirds this year through a combination of supply diversification, clean energy investment, and energy efficiency upgrades.

She was speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron who reiterated his view that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting turmoil on global energy markets underscored why “we have to be even more ambitious with our climate plans”.

The new proposed target is the latest in a string of measures designed to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, amidst calls from Ukraine for an immediate embargo on Moscow’s fossil fuel exports and threats from the Kremlin that it could halt oil and gas exports that are currently critical to Europe’s energy security.

The US this week banned Russian oil imports, while the UK government said it would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of this year and it also set to publish a wide-ranging new Energy Independence Strategy in the coming days.

The moves have been broadly welcomed green groups, but there have also been concerns voiced over governments’ focus on opening up new sources of fossil fuels and the failure thus far to prioritise the energy efficiency measures that could deliver the most rapid reduction in imports.

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