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Austria to reopen closed coal-fired power station, despite climate goals

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By Gregoire Lory
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Energy market turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine has triggered an increase in coal-fired electricity production in the European Union
Energy market turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine has triggered an increase in coal-fired electricity production in the European Union   -   Copyright  Thanassis Stavrakis/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Austria is preparing to reopen a coal-fired power station that closed in 2020, over fears of Russian gas supplies being cut due to the war in Ukraine.

The EU imposed sanctions against Moscow after it started the conflict and European countries are now preparing for retaliation from the Kremlin in relation to energy imports.

According to Christof Kurzmann-Friedl, a site manager at the power plant, every option is needed right now to reduce the impact.

"We are preparing ourselves for the fact that we will no longer have the same certainty of gas flow that we have become accustomed to in recent years and decades, and that every contribution that can be made to replace the use of gas will be called upon," Kurzmann-Friedl said. "Coal is a particular possibility, let's put it that way, and could help reduce gas consumption."

However, the EU has major ambitions to reduce carbon emissions, including a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050, and restarting the use of coal represents a major setback for the bloc's goals.

Austria is not the only member state preparing to once again use its coal-fired power plants. 

Germany and France have made similar announcements, putting at further risk another of the EU's climate goals - reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. 

For Geneviève Pons, from the Jacques Delors Institute, the conflict in Ukraine and its economic and energy consequences are a serious threat to all of this.

"It is quite shocking that we are allowing ourselves to come back to reopening power stations that are twice as polluting as gas power stations," Pons told Euronews. "We are allowing ourselves to do this rather than pleading for a reduction in consumption and pleading in a really very active way, i.e. by carrying out public campaigns as we did in the past."

Environmentalists argue that the war in Ukraine must not be used as an excuse to call the Green Pact into question.

They say the opposite - that it should push member states to act more quickly.