G7 and Europe face energy wake-up call as food and fuel crisis looms

Published: 2nd June 2014

Europe’s poor risk being forced to choose between heating and eating

Russia’s absence from the G7 summit is a stark warning to Europe that political turmoil on its doorstep risks an energy price crisis, at the same time as the effects of climate change on food imports could drive up costs, Oxfam says today.

In a new report Fit for a Food and Energy Secure World?, the international agency argues that the crisis in Ukraine and resulting tensions with Russia are a wake-up call for Europe to reassess its energy mix. Europe currently imports half of its energy, predominantly fossil fuels. Russia is Europe’s top supplier for both oil and gas, with European countries paying an average of about €250 per head of population to Russian oil and gas giants last year. The EU spent €400 billion on fossil fuel imports last year – more than €1 billion a day.

Oxfam is concerned about Europe’s over-reliance on fossil fuels because of their contribution to climate change, which is already making the world’s poorest hungrier.

Europe's two choices

Oxfam says Europe is at an energy crossroads with two clear options. It can continue to rely on imported fossil fuels and opt for dirty and expensive ‘home-grown' energy sources like coal and fracking. This would miss a golden opportunity to tackle climate change, and commit Europeans to higher fuel and food prices as a result – hitting the poorest the hardest.  Alternatively, it could choose a more sustainable pathway, cutting energy dependency, reducing prices and helping prevent runaway climate change, which is already affecting food production.

Energy security plans need to put clean and affordable energy first

G7 leaders meeting at the summit tomorrow will be discussing Europe’s energy security at a time when the EU’s 2030 Energy and Climate Change package, which will set emissions targets and energy policy, is also being debated for agreement later this year.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “The vulnerability of Europe’s energy security is being played out right on its doorstep and is a reminder of how Europeans’ wallets risk being held to ransom.

“If Europe is to avoid rising fuel and food prices and play the role it should as a global leader in tackling climate change it is crucial that we see a shift away from fossil fuels and ambitious emissions reduction targets. G7 leaders in Brussels can add weight to common sense, by developing an energy security plan that places energy saving, clean, affordable and renewable energy first.”

Energy imports bill expected to rise dramatically

Europe is the world’s largest fuel and food importer. Oxfam’s report says even if governments meet their 2020 climate and energy commitments, Europe’s total imports bill for gas and oil is expected to spiral to €500 billion by 2030 because of rising prices. At the same time, if climate change continues unchecked, the EU’s food import bill, currently at €100 billion, could also surge by several billion by 2030. Up to 72 per cent of the EU’s food imports come from developing that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, including 70 per cent of the EU’s animal feed for meat and dairy farming.

Oxfam says opting for a ‘climate compatible’ energy policy, which will help control prices and climate proof food supply is crucial. This involves shifting from both imported and domestic fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency and improving renewable energy capacity and supply. Improving energy efficiency by 40 per cent by 2030 could save €239 billion a year by 2030 – an average saving of more than €300 a year for every household.

Oxfam is calling for the EU to agree to an Energy and Climate Package for 2030 that commits to energy savings of 40 per cent, boosting sustainable renewable energy use to 45 per cent of the energy mix and reducing emissions by at least 55 per cent.

G7 leaders in Brussels can add weight to common sense, by developing an energy security plan that places energy saving, clean, affordable and renewable energy first.
Winnie Byanyima
Executive Director, Oxfam International

Contact information

In Brussels: Angela Corbalan on + 32 (0) 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org