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Halt of Nord Stream 2 Could Kickstart Europe’s Energy Transition

Huber, Sarah Elisabeth.  ; Chicago (Jun 13, 2022).

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Sarah Elisabeth Huber is a Student-at-Large from the University of Vienna, studying at Harris School of Public Policy and at the College.

The costs associated with the EU’s planned energy transition are unavoidable.

After years of controversy and sanctions, the contested Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has been put on hold by the German government as a result of Russia invading Ukraine – at least for now. The halt of the pipeline almost a month ago could be the first step toward an independent European energy policy based on renewable energies. Yet, in late March, the European Union announced a new gas deal with the United States. The costs associated with the EU’s planned energy transition are unavoidable. Instead of replacing Russian gas with American, this situation should be seen as an opportunity to finally get serious about the path to net-zero-emissions.

Nord Stream 2 is the focus of heated debate within the European Union and beyond. The pipeline was supposed to provide a larger supply of natural gas directly to Germany without being diverted through transit countries such as Ukraine or the Baltic states. Proponents argue that the energy is crucial for the phase-out of more environmentally damaging coal. However, opponents remark that the pipeline increases the EU’s dependency on Russia and gives Vladimir Putin more political leverage. They also contend that expanding natural gas development is irreconcilable with the climate goals set out in the Paris Climate Accords.

The halt of the pipeline increases concerns about rising prices of emission allowances of the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS). Carbon pricing through the ETS is the cornerstone of the EU’s climate policy and targets emissions in energy-intensive sectors such as power generation and heavy industry. ETS sets an emission cap, which is reduced from year to year with the...