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Dublin: 19 °C Tuesday 30 September, 2014

Poor people in Europe forced to choose between heating and eating

Oxfam is calling on G7 leaders who are meting tomorrow to reassess Europe’s energy strategy to move towards more sustainable and affordable fuels.

Image: elderly woman image via Shutterstock

OXFAM HAS WARNED that poor people in Europe are being forced to choose between heating their homes and buying food because countries are so reliant on expensive fuels.

Speaking ahead of the G7 summit tomorrow, the charity said Russia’s absence 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.

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.

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 said the crisis in Ukraine and resulting tensions with Russia are “a wake-up call” for Europe to reassess its energy mix.

The charity said Europe has two options:

  • Continue to rely on imported fossil fuels and opt for “dirty and expensive” ‘home-grown’ energy sources like coal and fracking.
  • Choose a more sustainable pathway, cutting energy dependency, reducing prices and helping prevent runaway climate change, which is already affecting food production.

Oxfam said the first option 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”.

Its 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.

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.

Read: Over 232,000 children in Ireland are living in poverty>

Read: UN committee meets in Dublin to plan Eradication of Poverty day>

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