Two Years of War in Ukraine: An Urgent Call to Rethink Energy for Peace and Climate

As we reach the tragic milestone of the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the horrors inflicted on innocent Ukrainians serve as a stark reminder of the role of Russian oil and liquefied natural gas export profits to the West. This week, Russian troops moved closer to the "hell" of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. In a tragic and all too familiar story, elderly Ukrainians with nowhere to go resisted evacuation from their lifelong homes, even as Russia was reported to be executing wounded prisoners. These tragedies, with more than 100,000 Russian war crimes already recorded, underline the urgent need to halt international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Putin's war chests.

Many large energy companies have been insisting that Europe needs more LNG to maximise their profits. But these fossil fuel companies are just trying to cash in on the trend of their record profits thanks to the war. The truth about "energy security", however, is different. Europe is now home to numerous LNG terminals, with construction capacity exceeding demand, while forecasts and a new German study predict a long-term decline in gas demand. Instead of betting on taxpayer-subsidised, climate-damaging LNG, we should prioritise investments in cheaper renewable energy solutions. Russia's staggering fossil fuel export profits of over $600 billion illustrate the financial underpinning of the Kremlin's thirst for blood and power. According to the International Energy Agency, if strict sanctions curb these revenues, the Kremlin's coffers could plummet by 40-50 per cent by 2030.

Last year, some EU countries, such as Spain and Belgium, saw a marked increase in their imports of Russian LNG. These countries remain crucial hubs for LNG distribution, and are the second and third largest buyers of Russian LNG. The next EU sanctions package, scheduled for this week, coinciding with the anniversary of the war, should include a total ban on Russian LNG. By taking a concrete stance once and for all against Russian LNG, the EU can weaken Putin's evil war economy, hastening the end of the war and promoting a shift to clean, renewable energy.

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Europe's energy landscape has undergone seismic shifts. The European Commission's REPowerEU Plan, launched in May 2022, was a decisive step towards energy diversification and renewables. Despite initial concerns about gas shortages, Europe adapted quickly. After the implementation of REPowerEU in 2022, only 9% of the EU's gas imports came from Russia via pipelines, down significantly from the 41% of gas the EU imported from Russia in 2021.

Europe's resilience without Russian gas exports and new US gas terminals highlights the viability of fast-growing clean energy. By transitioning to cheaper, cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, European nations can grow their economies and create high-quality green jobs while addressing climate imperatives.

Now is the time to prioritise clean and renewable energy, not just as an alternative, but as a catalyst for economic recovery, environmental restoration and community resilience. Clean energy initiatives in Ukraine have demonstrated the transformative power of renewables in the face of adversity, and the record growth of renewables addresses energy demand and mitigates climate challenges, positively impacting local economies.

The current decline in gas and LNG prices in the UK and Europe provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the energy we choose to use in the future. Rather than perpetuating dependence on Russian LNG, the UK and Europe have witnessed unprecedented declines in fossil fuel use through the adoption of cleaner energy sources. In the EU, renewables reached a record 44% share and, for the first time, wind produced more electricity than gas in 2023.

By completely severing ties with Russian oil and gas, nations can mitigate economic losses in the trillions, contribute to global climate resilience, become energy independent and put an end to Putin's dangerous military ambitions. When we prioritise clean energy solutions, we not only contribute to peace in Ukraine, but also take significant steps towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future. The moment calls for bold decisions, and choosing cleaner energy is a choice for peace and prosperity.

With a two-pronged strategy, Europe and the United States can cut off Russia's energy export market and pacify Ukraine more quickly. One part is to accelerate the development of clean energy and the other is to tighten sanctions. Existing sanctions have loopholes, but many of them have worked so far. US sanctions announced in November 2023 caused Russian energy company Novatek's shares to fall by 5 per cent. Following the sanctions, the traditionally pro-Russia US company Baker Hughes refused to continue cooperating with Arctic LNG2. The sanctions included companies involved in the construction and logistics of Novatek's huge Arctic LNG 2 project, and have restricted shipping, threatening even the viability of one of Putin's pet projects.

While the two years of war in Ukraine are a tragedy, there is still much that can be done to end Russia's brutal war funding and help bring more peace to a world that seems too often to be going astray. Building a clean energy revolution quickly creates jobs, will save billions by curbing coming climate disasters, helps produce energy security and supports peace in Ukraine.

What we need is clear: world leaders in Europe and the United States must act now and create comprehensive and transparent sanctions against the Russian energy economy that make a real difference for the people of Ukraine.

Appeared in the Spanish Infolibre, allied to Mediapart. DeepL translation, corrected.

Svitlana Romanko (Founder and director, Razom We Stand)