(Bloomberg) -- European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans called on member states to increase investment in renewable energy and eventually wean the continent off Russian gas.
Tensions between the bloc and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been escalating amid accusations that Gazprom PJSC, Russia’s state-owned energy company, isn’t doing more to fill up Europe’s depleted stocks of gas.
The threat of a Ukrainian invasion is also giving rise to fears that gas prices could spiral even higher, tightening the energy squeeze on EU citizens.
“If we really want to stop long-term making Putin very rich, we have to invest in renewables and we need to do it quickly,” Timmermans said Friday at an informal meeting of EU energy and environment ministers in Amiens, France.
“If you really want to make sure that you can provide stable, affordable energy to your citizens, renewables is the answer,” he said.
Rising energy prices pose a major challenge to the EU’s plans to transition the region’s economy away from a reliance on fossil fuels. Some member states, including Poland, argue that the Green Deal is one of the factors behind the increase.
Timmermans said that in one country, consumers had received energy bills that blamed the EU for the price rise.
“Sadly, mostly for political reasons, some people falsely argue that the increase of gas prices is mainly the result of the European Green Deal, or Commission proposals,” he said. “Whatever your political motivation is, setting your citizens on the wrong foot in terms of the transition is probably not the best way to prepare for the future.”
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Major legislation to overhaul the economy proposed in July by the European Commission is currently being debated by member states and the Parliament. Among the contentious aspects is a plan to create a second emissions trading system covering road transport and heating. Critics say that it could hit the poorest in society hardest, while the EU has proposed a Climate Social Fund to help provide compensation.
French Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili, whose country currently has the rotating Presidency of the bloc, said a lot of member states expressed concern at Friday’s meeting about the expansion, yet countries were committed to moving ahead with the so-called Fit for 55 package.
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