Putin says European greens capitalising on climate fears

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 2:27 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised the green movement in Europe for capitalising on peoples’ fears about climate change, while questioning Germany’s commitment to phasing out coal.

Long demonized by Germany’s Green party, which leads some of the government’s top ministries, coal was due to be phased out by 2030, but Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and gas export curbs brought coal back into favour.

At the same time, Russia’s oil and gas supplies to Europe have dwindled amid the severe political fallout over the conflict.

“Many representatives of this part of the European political spectrum (the greens) are capitalising on people’s fears and inciting people’s fears about the events that may occur in the world due to climate change,” Putin told Kremlin TV reporter Pavel Zarubin on Wednesday evening, mentioning German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“And then, capitalising on these fears, which they themselves incite, they pursue their own political line, which is far from what they came to power with. This is what is happening in Germany now,” he added.

“For example, coal generation has increased, it was larger than in Russia in the energy mix. It was larger, and now it has become even larger. Well, where is this ‘green’ agenda?”

Putin himself is known for his doubts about green energy. In 2019 he said that wind turbines were harmful to birds and worms. Russia has promoted natural gas as being climate friendly.

Though the electricity system in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is making the transition to cleaner energy, coal has helped it avoid energy shortfalls amid plummeting Russian natural gas and coal supplies.

In 2021, Russia supplied 53% of Germany’s coal imports. Between January and October 2023, Russia accounted for 2% of all German imported coal volumes.

Overall, German hard coal imports in the whole of 2023 may have fallen by 26.3% year-on-year to around 33.0 million tons, according to preliminary data.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Nick Macfie)