The destructive impacts of the fossil fuel age on our climate are becoming starker with each passing year – making an ever stronger case for why these resources need to be left in the ground.
But the climate is not the only area in which fossil fuels are causing harm. Since February this year, Ukraine has been suffering the devastating consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion – with the conflict bankrolled by Russian exports of oil and gas.
This month, a group of young Ukrainian climate activists made the difficult journey to Egypt to take part in the COP27 climate summit, to make the case that the issues of climate change and fossil fuel-driven conflict are inextricably linked. We spoked to two of them, Viktoriya Ball and Valeriia Bondarieva, as they were about to set off:
What will a successful COP27 look like to you?
For us as Fridays For Future activists, it means that the voices of Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) are heard – particularly on the need to stop delaying climate finance for loss and damage. Those most responsible for causing the climate crisis must be made to compensate those who are suffering its worst impacts. It also means Global North-South unity on committing to a rapid fossil fuel phase-out.
For us as Ukrainians, a start to a successful COP means no Russian state presence at COP, as their presence would just be another international platform for the Putin regime to push through its propaganda, justify its terroristic actions, and lobby for climate-damaging projects based on nuclear and fossil fuel expansion.
With travel out of Ukraine a challenging prospect right now, how will you be getting to COP27?
We will be travelling by train, the most environmentally friendly means of transportation, making stops in Hungary and Serbia to organise actions to draw attention to the actions those countries have taken to support the Russian regime, and harm European democracy.
Our final destination before arriving in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, is going to be Istanbul, Turkey (which is also another country ruled by a would-be dictator), from where we are taking a plane because there is no more environmentally-friendly route to get there due to the war in Syria, also funded by fossil fuels. As we believe that it’s impossible to work on the climate crisis in isolation from other crises, this trip is an opportunity to connect all the dots in how the fossil fuel industry is responsible for financing both conflict and autocratic regimes.
What's your take on the link between fossil fuels and conflict?
For a long time, Russia worked hard to make its fossil fuel supply, especially fossil gas, a geopolitical weapon. While the Russian state intimidated and invaded its neighbours, and propped up authoritarian regimes in Syria and Libya, it knew that it could blackmail Europe with the threat of an energy crisis should they try to intervene.
Being hugely dependent on Russian fossil fuels, the European Union has paid over a hundred billion euros to Putin’s regime, and continues contributing even more because the bloc’s slow sanction response has facilitated massive fluctuations in the price of energy. Continuing to buy fossil fuels from Russia is against international solidarity, and therefore we need an immediate, full embargo on Russian coal, oil, and gas.
If you could say one thing to the world leaders at COP, what would it be?
The war in Ukraine must become a pivotal moment when we firmly decide to leave fossil fuels in the past, and instead switch to renewables. In so doing, we would decentralise our energy system, making us less vulnerable to the destructive decisions of others and leading to a greener, more just future for all.
Valeriia BondarievaUkrainian climate justice activist, Fridays For Future Ukraine
Viktoriya BallUkrainian climate and health justice activist, Fridays For Future Ukraine