BRUSSELS: The EU’s total ban on coal imports from Russia comes into force from midnight Wednesday, at a time the bloc is grappling with soaring energy costs following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Leaders of the EU’s 27 countries agreed the embargo in April in their first move targeting Russia’s key energy exports over its war on its pro-Western neighbor.
The measure was subject to a 120-day grace period before full implementation, to allow pre-existing contracts to be fulfilled.
The EU up to last year imported some 45 percent of its coal — worth an estimated €4 billion ($4.1 billion) — from Russia.
Overall, the bloc slashed its consumption of the polluting fossil fuel from 1.2 billion tons to 427 million tonnes between 1990 and 2020 as it pushed to hit climate goals.
But the closure of many mines across the continent led to an increase in Europe’s dependence on imports.
Some countries including Germany and Poland that used it to produce electricity were particularly reliant on Moscow.
In the face of cuts to Russian gas deliveries in recent months, EU members such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy have stepped up their use of coal-fired power plants.
Adding to the energy crunch, an EU plan to cut natural gas use by 15 percent in the face of rocketing prices came into force earlier this week.
During the first five months of 2022, the amount of electricity Germany produces from coal rose by 20 percent, according to energy analyst Rystad.
The embargo on Russia has pushed the EU to step up imports from other sources, including the US, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.
But ending imports of Russian coal has already proved complicated for traditional mining nation Poland, which imported roughly 10 million tons from Moscow each year.
Its government imposed a total ban on Russian coal imports in mid-April, causing severe shortages and a surge in prices.
The cost of a ton of coal in Poland rose around fourfold from a year ago, leading to protests from the three million Poles still using it to heat their homes.