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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Energy Is The Missing Link At Sochi

No end of Facebook and Twitter posts have been denouncing the gay rights situation in Russia, linking it to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Stray dogs have been rounded up and destroyed, leading to further dismay online. Journalists have made us laugh with their tweets on the awful hotel accommodation in Sochi.

I certainly share the blogosphere’s concerns about gay rights and animal rights. We have done pro-bono work on gay marriage in the UK and I’m proud that our client AT&T was the first Olympic advertiser to come out with a clear statement against homophobia in Russia on their company blog. However, I can’t help feeling that all this outrage is missing one important piece of the puzzle - our dependence on energy exports from Russia.

While there have been some high-profile boycotts from Commissioner Reding - among others - I fear that the reason Europe doesn’t take more of a stand on the Russian civil rights situation is that we are over a barrel on gas and natural resources. If Europe was more self-sufficient on energy, we would not be so beholden to imports and could take a more courageous stand on human rights issues.

What will it take for Europe to embrace renewable energy on a much larger scale? Not imports from Russia, not homegrown coal and not shale gas but locally-sourced renewable energy. The new proposed EU 2030 climate and strategy puts forward a 27% target for renewable energy by 2030. The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) called the proposal unambitious.

Yesterday (5 February), the European Parliament rejected the Commission's proposal and called for binding targets with a 30% target for renewables. Although that’s hardly a dramatic increase from 27%, it does send a clear signal to policymakers that Europe needs to be more ambitious.

I believe it’s right to protest about human rights abuses in Russia but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. Europe needs to be more energy self-sufficient and less dependant on energy imports if we want to act as a global statesman on human rights issues.

Blog by Sustainability Consult CEO, Kathryn Sheridan 

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