Updated: Sep 26, 2022
Many have been saying we need to stop importing fossil fuels from Russia. We agree. And we've actually crunched the numbers.
The European Union can immediately stop buying fossil fuels from the Kremlin if it is prepared to implement a radical plan for fuel switching and continent-wide energy rationing, finds a groundbreaking new report by European environmental NGO RePlanet.
The report, titled “Switch off Putin: A Ukrainian Energy Solidarity Plan”, is the first study to fully demonstrate the feasibility of an immediate embargo on Russian oil, gas and coal and to crunch the numbers on how to achieve it.
The European Union currently buys over half a billion euros-worth of Russian fossil fuels per day, with over 20 billion euros having been paid out to the Kremlin since the invasion began on 24 February. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has repeatedly urged European leaders to end this sanctions-busting subsidy to the Russian dictator. Despite these pleas, the EU has only pledged to end the import of Russian oil, gas and coal “well before 2030”.
"If we shift to a war economy and implement ambitious temporary measures, President Zelensky's request can be met"
However, by shifting to a war economy and implementing a series of ambitious temporary measures, President Zelensky’s request can be met immediately, finds the report. These measures include suspending business flights, lowering speed limits on motorways, restarting shuttered nuclear plants, a fast-tracked deployment of solar and wind power and the turning down of domestic and business thermostats from the current 22C to 18C next winter.
All told, some 155 billion cubic metres of gas must be saved over the year if Russian imports are to end entirely. The report quantifies how each of the energy-saving and fuel switching measures can substitute for Russian gas, and finds that Europe can “Switch off Putin” immediately if it can summon the political will and implement rationing and solidarity measures appropriate to a de facto war economy across the continent.
Report co-author, Mark Lynas says: “As President Zelensky has repeatedly pointed out, it is unthinkable that Europe should be pouring billions into Putin’s war machine while Ukrainians are dying under a rain of missiles and bombs. This report demonstrates that ending European imports of Russian fossil fuels is possible right now. Obfuscation and delays from European leaders - particularly in Germany - must stop.”
Report co-author, Rauli Partanen says: “Enforcing energy rationing, suspending domestic flights and reversing our nuclear shutdown are just some of the ambitious but entirely possible measures that could help us answer President Zelensky’s call. We need new levels of political ambition and deep cooperation within EU members to immediately embargo Russian oil, gas and coal, but we can do it.”
"We need new levels of political ambition and deep cooperation within EU members"
However, war economy-style measures such as energy rationing must be taken with extreme caution to ensure that the effects are shared fairly across society, says the report. Guaranteeing an “energy basic income” would insulate low-income households from poverty, while enforcing a windfall tax on energy companies could raise €200 billion to fund the more costly measures such as providing free public transport.
Temporary emergency measures must also be combined with an unprecedented rollout of low-carbon energy sources, says the report, which will make meeting our mid-term climate goals more achievable. The suspension of normal planning laws to turbocharge the deployment of wind and solar power and changes in legislation to ramp up the building of new nuclear will be needed to make sure that energy rationing is only a short-term measure.
RePlanet Executive Director, Tea Törmänen says: “If Europe acts in solidarity and shares energy resources across borders, we can effectively bankrupt the Kremlin. It will involve making sacrifices not seen since World War II, but I’m confident most of us are prepared to do so in order to force Putin to end the war and save European democracy.”