30 October 2023
Letter to: Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium
Tinne Van der Straeten
Minister of Energy of Belgium
Alexander De Croo
Prime Minister of Belgium
We, the undersigned Ukrainian civil society organizations, call on the Belgian government to prohibit the transshipment of Russian LNG in the port of Zeebrugge and to initiate a multilateral ban on transshipments in European ports, involving all countries with relevant infrastructure, namely: France, Spain, Netherlands and the UK. The latter two countries already have banned transshipment services for Russian LNG. We count on Belgium to follow in their footsteps.
First, let us recall that in the aftermath of the first month of the Russian invasion and mass murders of civilians in Bucha and Irpin, in March 2022 the EU has pledged to urgently address it’s dependency on Russian gas imports, phase them out by 2027 at the latest and focus on measures to reduce gas demand and accelerate decarbonisation.
This was recently reiterated by EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson in a commentary to Reuters. “We can and we must reduce Russian LNG exports to phase them out completely” - said Simson on the 14th of September 2023.
Today we are calling on the government of Belgium to make the first step of good will in this direction: a ban on the transshipment of Russian LNG, which facilitates the global Russian LNG trade. This ban would thwart the export and expansion of Russian Arctic LNG which finances the Russian war effort.
According to official statements published on the 9th of March 2023, Russia intends to almost triple its LNG export capacity to over 100 million tonnes per year by 2030 from the current 35 million tonnes per year. This major expansion of Russia’s gas export capacity will not only boost the aggressor country's economy, but will also have climate-damaging consequences due to the extremely high methane emissions in the LNG supply chain.
The contribution of European companies to Novatek’s expansion could unlock extraction at new gas fields in Russia – set the fuse to ‘methane bombs’ and put the 1.5°C Paris Agreement climate target off reach. As the world is inching towards catastrophic climate change, unlocking production from new gas fields in Russia and further gas exploration in the Arctic could push the world off the cliff.
If democracy and sustainability are about to prevail in Europe, then governments should rein over the companies who rush for quick profits at the expense of European security, climate and human rights.
We are aware that the transshipment services, currently being performed by Belgian gas system operator Fluxys in the port of Zeebrugge, are essential for maintaining and expanding the Russian LNG export capacity as only 15 icebreaker LNG carriers are at their disposal and the export capacity is dictated by the sailing times of these vessels.
According to independent research, transshipments performed in Zeebrugge are almost exclusively destined for non-EU markets. According to IEEFA analysis, in 2022 Fluxys LNG terminal Zeebrugge did 72% of all Russian LNG transshipments in the EU, of which 93% was shipped to non-EU countries. The type of transshipment, which is offered in the Zeebrugge LNG terminal which has tank storage capacities, particularly facilitates the sales of Russian LNG at spot markets providing high trade margins for “Yamal LNG”, a subsidiary of Novatek.
According to a statement from Russia's Ministry of finance, that Yamal’s access to Belgian transshipment services will generate about 730 million euros in tax revenue for the Kremlin in 2023 and thus will contribute to the Russian war chest.
Russian company Novatek is owned by Russian oligarchs Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko, who are members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle and, with the assistance of his regime, have seized stakes of international companies in Russian oil and gas projects.
Evidence revealed by journalist investigations also points out that Novatek is providing mercenaries to the Russian Army. Knowing this is happening using profits that Novatek receives with the help of Belgium, a country calling itself an ally of Ukraine, makes us wonder why a ban on transshipments has yet to be implemented.
Because of transshipment services provided by Fluxys to Novatek’s “Yamal LNG” in the ports of Zeebrugge, the limited fleet of expensive icebreaker LNG carriers don’t have to sail around the world to China or India. Third-party conventional LNG carriers allow “Yamal LNG” to export more LNG because the icebreaker LNG carriers are away for much less time.
Therefore, transshipment services are facilitating the global Russian LNG trade, whilst having a negligible contribution to the EU security of supply. Furthermore, countries such as Belgium and France consequently play a key role in mitigating the bottleneck of the Russian Arctic LNG export capacity.
As Russia plans to massively increase the Arctic LNG export capacity by building new terminals, transhipment services in the EU are playing in favour of the Kremlin's strategic geopolitical plans.
In the context of the above, we call on Belgium and all other EU member states to follow the precedent set by the US government, which sanctioned Novatek and its joint ventures, most recently - “Arctic Transshipment”, and impose a multilateral ban on transshipment of Russian LNG. The Netherlands and UK have already banned the transshipment of Russian LNG unilaterally. In addition, we call to collaborate with the European Commission to deliver a strong 12th sanctions package, that should include measures to limit Russia’s capacity to develop LNG export projects.
1. Razom We Stand
2. NGO Khmelnytskyi Energy Cluster
3. NGO Ecoclub
4. NGO Green Liberty
5. NGO SaveDnipro
6. NGO Zero Waste Society
7. ICO “Environment - People - Law”, Ukraine
8. NGO Center for environmental initiatives "Ecoaction"
9. DiXi Group
10. NGO “Center for international cooperation and project implementation”
11. NGO “Wetland park Osokorky”
12. NGO “Danube-Carpathian Programme”
13. NGO “Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group”
14. NGO “Office for the Environment”
15. NGO “Black Sea Women’s Club”
16. NGO “Plato”
17. NGO “Ecoltava”
18. NGO “Unique Planet”
19. NGO "Information Center "Green Dossier"
20. NGO EHA “Green World”
21. NGO "Social Initiative "City of the Sun"
22. The coalition of NGOs and municipalities "Energy Transition"
23. NGO "Promote Ukraine"
For immediate release
Kyiv, November 14, 2023
Unveiling Stricter Sanctions on Russia’s Fossil Fuels and Arctic LNG Expansion
October 30, 2023
Special report from Berlin
by Maksym Gardus, Razom We Stand
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