The situation currently unfolding in Ukraine is a stark reminder that we need to move away from fossil fuels and not just because they’re bad for the environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that in both environmental and political terms, our words don’t match our actions and it seems we can’t stop buying fossil fuel from Russia.
It’s very easy to cut financial and sporting ties with Russia and for individual people to support. When it comes to climate change, it’s equivalent to the empty promises politicians and businesses make to sound great but actually do nothing.
Many sources of oil and gas are located in countries with questionable regimes and have consistently been the fuel for conflict. The moral issues with Russian oil and gas supply haven’t magically appeared in the last few weeks. These are problems we’ve known about and could have tackled for more than a decade.
Russia is a country where we’ve said for over half a century that free speech is limited and ‘open opposition doesn’t work’. Through the early to mid 90s, Russian state assets found their way into the hands of a chosen few people know as oligarchs, making them billionaires in the process.
There are a few other regions of the world with similar problems such as Saudi Arabia in Yemen, or billions of pounds of oil-derived revenue that the people of Nigeria have had stolen from them. Why then do we want to continue to be dependent on resources, the profits from which can be used to actively oppress people or siphoned off, leaving everyday people in misery.
Demand for Russian Resources
Europe has continued to increase its reliance on Russia for fossil fuels as many of its countries plan to reduce their reliance on dirtier fossil fuels like coal. Even in September 2008, it was projected that ‘reliance on Russia will rise to 50 to 60% of all gas imports within the next two decades’.
The transfer of fossil fuels from Russia to European Union member states, with Ukraine in the middle, has been part of a delicate political balancing act for many years. In the build up to the current war in Ukraine, the United States together with Germany put pressure on the Russian government by threatening to include Nord Stream 2 in sanctions if they went ahead with military action.
The opening of Nord Stream 2 would represent a huge increase in capacity for a country that already supplies 40% of European natural gas imports. We’re paying them to destroy the planet and essentially funding their military action in Ukraine.
Refusing to process payments from Russian customers, pressuring companies to stop doing business in Russia, placing restrictions on Russian sports teams, Russian sports stars, high-profile Russian figures and oligarchs is the easy thing to do. Everyday people can support that and feel as though they’re making a difference.
Making difficult, challenging decisions like the challenge to stop buying fossil fuel from Russia is what we need to start doing. The most difficult thing is to successfully navigate the ‘how do we’ and ‘how soon can we’ of giving up something we depend so much on.
The Russian supply of oil and gas to the European Union has been at the heart of political tensions between the two powers for the last 20 years. Around 45% of Russian gas exports to Europe go through Ukraine. Just as they are today, fossil fuel resources have been at the centre of countless conflicts over the past 50 years, so it comes as no surprise that we again find ourselves in armed conflict because of them.
If we stop purchasing oil and gas from Russia, it will hit them hard. In 2021, Russia sold a staggering $100 billion worth of oil and gas to European countries.
We’ve made ourselves so dependent on the drug that is fossil fuel that now, Russian oil and gas is like heroin to Europe. It won’t be easy to wean ourselves off the drug, but in the long-term, it will be for the best.
Invest in Renewables
Now is the time to move away from Russia, the world’s second largest gas producer and invest more heavily in renewable energy. This is something we should have done more of over the past 20 years. If this latest high-profile conflict isn’t the wake-up call we need to make a change, what will it take?
We’ve had a lot of time to think and plan, but we’ve found ourselves in this desperate position. So what’s the quickest path to breaking our reliability on fossil fuel?
The renewable energy source with the shortest possible lead time is wind power at 2 years. The UK is currently home to the largest capacity offshore wind farm in the world, which makes us a great example for other European nations with available coastline. Also on the table is solar power, but creating the panels is an extremely energy intensive process and recycling them at the end of life also has its challenges.
Although Russia aren’t the only country or region with a questionable regime that supply us with planet killing fossil fuels, they are in focus right now.
The best thing we can do for both Ukraine and the planet is to stop buying fossil fuel from Russia. If we stop playing football with Russia, cancel Formula 1 races, stop doing business with individual Russians, cut ties with Russian companies and sanction their oligarchs, why are we still giving their fossil fuel companies money for oil and gas?
This whole situation only underscores the need for us all to move away from fossil fuel. Stop importing oil and gas from countries like Russia and start making more clean energy closer to home. Wind, solar, tide, heat pumps. Whatever it is we can do.
Without ambitious targets and the will to try and meet them, nothing will change.
If we really want to send a message to Russia, we should cut all oil and gas imports immediately.
Stop paying Russia to wage war. Cut all oil and gas imports today.