A Pipeline Splits Europe
Nord Stream 2 is one of the most controversial pipelines in Europe. The fossil gas pipeline stretches 1,230 km (764 mi) from the Leningrad region in Russia through the Finnish, Swedish, and Danish parts of the Baltic Sea to the north-eastern coast of Germany. Russian state-owned company Gazprom is the company behind Nord Stream 2. Wintershall Dea, Engie, Fortum/Uniper, OMV and Shell helped the Russian gas giant finance the pipeline.
With Nord Stream 2, Russia has opened up a geopolitical hornets’ nest. International observers have warned that Nord Stream 2 would make Europe heavily reliant on Russian gas deliveries. They fear that Russia is already using the pipeline as a political weapon.  Critics from the European Union worry that Gazprom’s pipeline will bring Russian influence along with the Russian gas into Europe.
For Russia, Nord Stream 2 is an opportunity to further destabilize Ukraine. In 2014, the country annexed Crimea. Since then, it has repeatedly deployed troops near the Ukrainian border. With Nord Stream 2, Russia can now bypass the traditional gas transit country Ukraine. At worst, Russia could pump its gas through the Baltic Sea to Europe and turn off the gas supply for Ukraine. This would isolate the Eastern European country, starve its economy, and give Russia free hand for military actions.
This text was written before Russia invaded Ukraine on 24/02/2022. For more information on the current situation and how the involved companies react to the war, please visit our dedicated campaign website defuelrussiaswar.org.
On 22 February 2022, the German government halted the Nord Stream 2 project. One day after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two separatist-held areas in Ukraine as independent, the German government suspended the certification process. Without the certification, Russian fossil gas cannot flow through the pipeline.
Arctic Gas for Europe
The fossil gas that would flow through Nord Stream 2 comes from the Yamal peninsula in the Siberian Arctic. This region is Russia’s most extraction-intensive region for gas. Wintershall, OMV and Shell, key financiers of Nord Stream 2, and Gazprom itself operate large gas fields there.
Since the gas companies arrived on the Yamal peninsula, they have increasingly put the Nenets indigenous people and their reindeer herds under pressure. For centuries, the Nenets used to travel freely across the Arctic tundra. As the seasons changed, they moved with their reindeer herds between pasturelands. Now, pipelines and roads cut through the Nenets’ migration routes. Gas wells fragment lands where reindeer used to graze. Gazprom’s Bovanenkovo gas field alone has eradicated 170,500 hectares of reindeer pasture. Without the pastureland, families have to give up their traditional nomadic ways of life.
A Pipeline through Protected Areas
Nord Stream 2 begins its journey in north-western Russia. In the Kurgalsky nature reserve, the pipeline dips into the Baltic Sea. The Kurgalsky reserve is a coastal sanctuary for rare birds and animals such as the Baltic ringed seal. Dunes, coastal meadows and mudflats cover this protected area. Nevertheless, Gazprom has sent its construction companies into the Kurgalsky reserve to lay the pipeline. Their machines have destroyed numerous protected and unique plants.  Botanists discovered that the company failed to transplant the protected plants. Instead, it simply replaced them with non-endangered ones.
The Baltic Sea is already under pressure from fisheries, ship traffic and pollution. But Nord Stream 2 has damaged its marine ecosystems even more. In German waters, the gas pipeline runs exclusively through marine protected areas. Dredging companies have scraped an 80-meter-wide corridor into the seabed for the pipeline. As they removed sand and mud from the seafloor, they destroyed what used to be the home of marine animals, underwater plants, and stone reefs. The construction of the pipeline has driven endangered animals such as porpoises, river lampreys and sea ducks out of their old habitats.
The dredging works also released 254 tons of phosphor from the seafloor into the already heavily over-fertilized Baltic Sea. Phosphor is a nutrient that stimulates extensive algae growth. Once the algae die, they sink to the bottom of the sea. Their decay on the seafloor takes up all the oxygen from the water. The phosphor is creating dead zones on the Baltic seafloor that are void of marine life.
Once operational, Nord Stream 2 plans to pump 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year to Germany. Burning this gas would cause 100 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, an amount incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. This number does not even account for the methane leakages associated with the fossil gas supply chain. Over a 20-year period, methane is 86 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere. Gazprom has a long history of methane leaks. The company loses at least 5-7% of its methane production to the atmosphere. These leaks make the climate bill of the Nord Stream 2 gas worse than that of coal.
Finished, but no done deal
Although Gazprom finished Nord Stream 2 in September 2021, the pipeline is not operational yet. The future of Nord Stream 2 hinges on the certification process and the outcomes of numerous ongoing lawsuits.
In 2020, the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) filed a lawsuit against the Stralsund Mining Authority that approved Nord Stream 2. DUH argues that the permit ignores the pipeline’s climate effects, especially from methane emissions. The NGO is pushing for a review of the permit. In addition, DUH challenges Nord Stream 2 on the basis of recent court rulings that oblige Germany to more ambitious climate action. Similarly, several lawsuits of the Naturschutzbund (NABU) are pending before the courts. These lawsuits challenge the approval of Nord Stream 2 for the damages it has done to the marine environment.
From the Yamal gas fields to its landing point in Germany, Nord Stream 2 is causing enormous harm to indigenous people and the environment. Even if Gazprom’s pipeline becomes operational, it will continue to be Europe’s most contested gas pipeline.
Groups working on Nord Stream 2: Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Naturschutzbund Deutschland, ClientEarth, Greenpeace Russia, Fridays for Future, Ende Gelände, Pipelines verSTOPfen!, NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark, Polski Klub Ekologiczny (Polish Ecological Club), Green World, Friends of the Baltic, Coalition Clean Baltic, WWF Russia, WWF Germany, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, Urgewald