The war in Ukraine risks derailing efforts to curb global warming if countries try to replace Russian fossil fuels by boosting oil and gas supplies at home, said United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.
It would be “madness” if countries “become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use,” Guterres said in a pre-recorded address to the Economist Sustainability Summit on Monday.
Western countries are seeking to reduce their dependence on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine. In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested the government will seek to revitalize oil and gas production in the North Sea and is open to boosting all forms of energy, including fracking.
At COP26 in Glasgow in November, nearly 200 countries agreed to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That goal was at risk as nations re-evaluate their energy strategies in light of the war, Guterres said.
“Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction,” he told the conference.
He said the war shows how reliance on fossil fuels leaves countries vulnerable to shocks, and that governments should now be seeking to accelerate their climate policies, instead of “hitting the brakes on decarbonization.”
The upheaval in oil and gas markets triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could accelerate the world’s transition away from fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said last week.