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Germany will pass emergency laws to reopen mothballed coal plants for electricity generation ahead of the winter as Russian cuts to gas exports threaten shortfalls in Europe’s largest economy.

Moscow cut capacity on the main gas export pipeline to Berlin last week by 60 per cent, trigging alarm across Europe at the prospect of fuel reserves running out as countries cut ties with the Kremlin following its invasion of Ukraine.

Italy, which has also been his by falling gas supplies, is also expected to announce emergency measures in the coming days if supplies aren’t restored by the Russia’s state energy company Gazprom.

The German government said on Sunday (Monday AEST) it would significantly increase its use of highly polluting coal to preserve energy supplies and auction gas supplies to industry to encourage businesses to curb consumption.

The plan is at odds with Germany’s climate policy, which aims to phase out coal by 2030, and has set the preliminary targets to cut emissions by at least 65 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and 88 percent by 2040. It is aiming to hit net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Economic minister Robert Habeck, a Greens MP in the coalition government, said bringing back coal-first power plants was “painful” but “a sheer necessity”.

“To reduce gas consumption, less gas must be used to generate electricity. Coal-first power plants will have to be used more instead,” he said on Monday AEST. “This is bitter but in this situation essential to lower the use of gas.”

Habeck said he was working to temporarily bring back up to 10 gigawatts of idle coal-fired power plants for up to two years, which would increase Germany’s dependence on coal for electricity generation by up to a third.

“The situation is serious,” Habeck said. “It is obviously Putin’s strategy to upset us, to drive prices upwards, and to divide us . . . We won’t allow this to happen.”

The government recently called on citizens to cut back their energy use in light of the tense supply situation.

Berlin has come under intense criticism, particularly from the United States, for its reliance on cheap Russian energy sources, which Washington has always seen as a security risk for Europe.

Rising energy prices are stoking inflation and a cost of living crisis across Europe, which central banks are struggling to address without tipping the region’s economy into recession.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has had far-reaching impacts on the global energy system, disrupting supply and demand patterns and threatening to derail efforts to tackle the world’s efforts in reducing global greenhouse emissions in time to meet targets.