Svitlana Romanko is a Ukrainian climate justice activist, and an organiser with the Stand With Ukraine campaign.
Fossil fuels are funding the ongoing Russian invasion of my country, Ukraine. Without revenues from the export of oil and gas – much of which is bought by countries in Western Europe – Putin’s war machine would not be able to function and would probably be unable to continue this horrific war.
It has been heartening to see how supportive ordinary people across Europe have been of this message. Many individuals, movements and organisations have shown their solidarity with Ukraine – attending protests and contacting their representatives to support our call for an embargo of Russian fossil fuels. We truly appreciate this support.
However, the governments representing them, and the businesses buying Russian oil and gas have been much less receptive to our appeals. To them, I issue this plea: by continuing to import Russian fossil fuels, you are directly financing the war in our country. For the sake of peace, you must bring an end to this blood-soaked trade.
How can companies and governments support Ukraine?
In the short term, businesses and governments must reject and ban the import of any fossil fuels from Russia, and continue providing support to refugees who are fleeing the violence in Ukraine. They must implement energy-saving measures and escalate the green energy transition to once and for all end Europe’s reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.
Likewise, financial institutions and investors must divest any funds from planned fossil fuel infrastructure designed to facilitate the production, transportation and sale of Russian fossil fuels.
But crucially, efforts to achieve peace must not stop there. While the destructive side effects of Russian oil and gas sales are front and centre in our minds right now, we must equally recognise the damaging effects which fossil fuels have had (and continue to have) in many other places around the world.
We will not secure long-lasting peace by transitioning away from Russian oil and gas, only to increase production elsewhere. We have already seen attempts by the fossil fuel industry to use the brutal invasion of Ukraine as an excuse to expand their investments in other parts of the world. We cannot allow these companies to use peace-washing attempts to fill the pockets of other authoritarian regimes, sowing the seeds of future conflict.
Fossil fuels fund conflict
The invasion of Ukraine clearly shows how dangerous our reliance on fossil fuels is, especially our current energy system which concentrates power in the hands of strongmen like Putin or a handful of powerful fossil fuel company CEOs, or Wall St banks.
For example, Poland has shown great leadership in its support for refugees from Ukraine. In response, Putin shut off the supply of Russian natural gas to the country, a clear attempt to punish it for its moral stance. While we remain addicted to fossil fuels, we risk being taken hostage by the handful of states and powerful companies which control the supply.
Reliance on coal, oil and gas is the intentional embrace of death, misery and collapse in Ukraine but also at a global scale. By rushing to build more fossil fuel infrastructure, governments would dig us further into conflicts, vulnerability and instability – all of which the climate crisis will only worsen. As long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, we will continue to empower dictators like Putin who use revenues from fossil fuels to launch devastating wars.
The common roots of crises
The war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and the energy crisis have common roots, and a common solutions – a complete and total end to the use of coal, oil and gas in the world everywhere. We have seen what misery and destruction the fossil fuel industry enables, not just in Ukraine but in many different places for many years.
I wish that as a world we could close all taps with fossil fuel supply and tackle the climate crisis, at the same time as ending war and conflicts. Governments have the power to take the first step towards such a future, by signing up to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and shifting the money which is currently spent of fossil fuel subsidies to investment in clean sources of energy.
Anti-fossil fuel movements around the world recognise the interconnectedness of the negative impacts we are suffering from this industry’s continued operations. Together, we are all doing the same thing: fighting wars, the climate crisis, and the dominance of fossil fuels. Ultimately, we must act now to end reliance on fossil fuels everywhere, because we all share a planet that we must protect.