June 27, 2022

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E.U. Leaders Weigh a Ban on Russian Coal

2 min read

European leaders, seeking to punish Russia for reports of atrocities carried out in Ukraine, on Thursday approved a ban on Russian coal, the imported energy source that would be the easiest to replace.

Initially expected to arrive on Wednesday but delayed by extended deliberations among European Union officials, the latest round of sanctions from the bloc included a plan for cutting off Russian coal over four months. The original proposal had suggested a shorter, three-month withdrawal.

The slight slowdown in the decision-making process reflected the challenges of reaching agreement among all 27 member nations on the penalties, particularly given that some countries in the bloc are more reliant on Russian energy than others. Sanctions need to be approved by all member states.

And there were concerns that cutting off coal supplies could cause more harm to the European Union than to Russia. Though the European Union depends on Russian coal, the bloc could replace it more easily with imports from other countries than it could replace natural gas and oil. But banning coal from Russia could send energy prices soaring for European consumers, given the existing shortages in the bloc, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm. Carlos Torres Diaz, a senior vice president at Rystad, called the potential sanctions “a double-edged sword.”

Imports from Russia accounted for 47 percent of coal coming into the European Union in 2019, according to the European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat, making the country the most important supplier of the fuel. That amounts to four billion euros worth of coal annually, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said.

Each member state has different energy needs, and among those most dependent on Russian energy overall is Germany, the bloc’s largest economy. Roughly half of all coal that Germany imports comes from Russia, last year totaling 2.2 billion, according to government figures. Most is used to generate…

Melissa Eddy

2022-04-07 21:50:13

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