On March 9, GMF, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), hosted a roundtable discussion in Brussels on Europe's new energy challenge, Russian coal. The event featured Kevin Rosner, senior fellow at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; Nikita Lomagin, St. Petersburg State University; and Heinrich Hick, member of the Cabinet of Günther Öttinger. Ron Asmus, director of GMF's Brussels Office, moderated the event.
The roundtable, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, focused on Kevin Rosner's paper entitled "Russian Coal: Europe's New Energy Challenge," the latest paper to be published in the GMF paper series. The paper looks at the complex relationship between natural gas and coal within Russia's energy and power sector and how this relationship influences energy security and climate change. Europe receives large quantities of its natural gas from Russia. It has been traditionally accepted by Russian leaders that for Russia to satisfy downstream European demand for natural gas, it must turn to other domestic fuels. Russia has gigantic coal reserves, second only to the United States, so it is turning more and more to this source of power to satisfy domestic demands. However, this has implications on Russia's greenhouse gas emissions. As Russia is already the world's third largest emitter, this could have dangerous implications for the world's climate.
Rosner's paper recommends that the easiest way for Russia to shift toward a low-carbon economy is to increase energy efficiency. He argues that the Russian economy is both energy-intensive and highly inefficient. This presents an opportunity for the United States and the European Union to increase their efforts to help Russia increase energy efficiency, through technology transfer and other cooperative approaches.
The presentation was followed by discussion and comments. Comments included that, while Rosner made some interesting suggestions on how the Russian energy market could be changed, he didn't take into account Russian internal politics. The Russian coal market is not run by a monopoly and the state doesn't have a great deal of influence over it. At the same time, the Russian coal lobby is powerful, and so is the miners' union. Furthermore, coal is an important part of the economy and a "factor of stability" in 26 of Russia's provinces, all of which would fight to retain the status quo. Others mentioned that the European Union could help Russia to embark on a path of energy efficiency by working with Russia on transferring green technologies. Nevertheless, Western strategies to share technology with Russia would be conditional on the resolution of questions around how to pay for such sharing, the issue of intellectual property rights, and the need for Russia to liberalize its domestic energy market.
Participants agreed that a constructive dialogue with Russia needs to be established to help it develop its economy toward energy efficiency and green growth.