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

Posted by Lucy Brinicombe Senior Press Officer

3rd Jun 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, Oxfam warns today. This adds further pressure to household bills at a time when climate change risks driving up the cost of food imports.

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 £200 (€250) per head of population to Russian oil and gas giants last year. The EU spent £325 billion (€400 billion) on fossil fuel imports last year - more than £800 million (€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.

Oxfam says Europe is at an energy crossroads with two clear options. It can continue to rely on imported fossil fuels alongside 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.

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 Campaigns and Policy Director Sally Copley said: "Unless Europe acts now to break its addiction to dirty and costly fossil fuels then both Europeans and the world's poorest will pay the price.

"It's in all our interests for Europe to end its reliance on dirty imports and instead develop clean, safe and affordable energy at home."

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 more than £400 billion (€500 billion) by 2030 because of rising prices. At the same time, if climate change continues unchecked, the EU's food import bill, currently more than £80 billion (€100 billion), could also surge by several billion by 2030. Up to 72 per cent of the EU's food imports come from developing countries 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 almost £200 billion (€239 billion) a year by 2030 - an average saving of more than £240 (€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. 

// Ends

Oxfam has a team in Brussels who are available for interview / comment in the lead up to and during the G7 Summit.

Photo interview opportunities are also taking place:

Tuesday, 3 June: The G7 leaders depicted by the "Oxfam Big Heads" will highlight how the G7 remains hooked on dirty energy and continues to play to the tune of the wealthy elite. Location: Schuman (exact location tbc later on June 2)

Wednesday, 4 June: Mr Money conducting the orchestra of the G7 Big Heads who play Abba's 'Money, Money, Money' with visually powerful instruments such as double basses and cellos. Mr represents the wealthy elite. The G7 leaders play to his tune.

For more information contact:

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

In Oxford: Lucy Brinicombe +44 (0)7786 110054 / +44 (0)1865 472192 / lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk

Blog post written by Lucy Brinicombe

Senior Press Officer

More by Lucy Brinicombe