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The EU is proposing a ban on Russian coal imports in its 5th round of sanctions

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

The European Union is proposing a ban on Russian coal in its fifth round of sanctions against the country, and considering restrictions against its oil imports — but the trade bloc notably left natural gas out of the conversation.

Von de Leyen’s announcement came amid reports of Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Over the weekend, Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing 300 civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

“Russia is waging a cruel and ruthless war, not only against Ukraine’s brave troops, but also against its civilian population,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday said in a statement. “It is important to sustain utmost pressure on Putin and the Russian government at this critical point.”

An EU import ban on Russian coal would cost the country 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) a year, said von der Leyen. Russia was the world’s third-largest exporter of coal in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The EU is also working on sanctions against Russian oil imports, said von der Leyen. She did not mention natural gas.

The reason the EU commission proposed banning Russian coal, rather than oil or gas, “is likely because it is the easiest to be replaced,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.

The EU imported about half of its coal from Russia in 2020, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office. However, Europe has been moving away from coal to the cleaner natural gas for electricity generation. According to Eurostat, nuclear energy and solid fossil fuels — such as coal — accounted for 13% of the EU’s energy mix in 2019, while natural gas accounted for 22% of the mix. Petroleum products, including crude oil, accounted for 36% of the energy mix.

European coal prices have gained on news of the potential sanctions, with regional benchmark Rotterdam coal futures closing 11% higher on Tuesday.

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