An estimated 9.9 million viewers tuned into the BBC and gathered around their televisions to watch the 2023 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest on 13th May. The contest was welcomed back to the UK for the first time since 1998, hosted in the city of Liverpool on behalf of 2022 Ukrainian winners, Kalush Orchestra. An array of whacky and wonderful musical acts graced our screens, including Austria’s Teya and Salena, whose electropop tune about being possessed by the spirit of poet Edgar Allen Poe served up exactly what we have all come to expect from the annual competition – a celebration of Europe’s most eccentric and diverse talent. However, among the fun and carefree acts were those using the platform to make more politically-driven statements. Despite the fact that the Eurovision Song Contest was conceived in the 1950s to unite countries after World War II, this year’s competition saw Croatia’s Let 3 perform an anti-war track, with reference to the Russian Federation and both the presidents of Russia and Belarus.
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Ukraine’s track ‘Heart of Steel’ also touched upon the war, inspired by Azovstal’s steel works, which became one of the most emblematic points of the Siege of Mariupol. It is evident therefore that the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict are still being felt across Europe, 14 months after it began.
Europe’s fertilizer sector is just one area still struggling with the repercussions of the conflict. As our regional report in this issue of World Fertilizer states, Europe’s nitrogen fertilizer market in particular has found itself vulnerable, relying heavily on Russian natural gas as feedstock. In 2021, Russia exported US$13.1 billion in fertilizer,1 and following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, prices of diammonium phosphate and urea also reached record highs;2 while prices are now coming down from these peaks, Europe must explore new ways to become more self-sufficient and reduce its dependence on Russian exports. A prerequisite for this is sourcing raw materials for fertilizer, such as natural gas, from elsewhere in Europe, however other solutions, according to major European fertilizer producer Yara, should inevitably include the decarbonisation of the fertilizer sector.3 By replacing natural gas with sources like green ammonia, the company plans for its own ‘green fertilizer’ to have an 80 – 90% lower carbon footprint. And Yara is certainly not the only producer with plans based on decarbonisation. CF Industries recently reported that it is partnering up with CHS Inc. to accelerate agriculture and food system greenhouse gas emission reductions through the production and distribution of low-carbon nitrogen fertilizer.4 By leveraging CF Industries’ investments to produce ammonia, as well as carbon capture technologies, lower Scope 1 emissions are hoped to be achieved. It has also been suggested that the encouragement of organic fertilizer use could set Europe on a path away from Russian exports, as well as circular economy practices like nutrient recycling and recovery from waste streams. Overall, it seems that navigating an industry independent of Russia will not be without its challenges, however being forced to explore alternatives to these exports could provide Europe with a real opportunity to develop more sustainable and planet-friendly practices. Turn to P.10 to read the article from Contributing Editor, Gordon Cope, as he explores the topic in further detail.