Ban European flights and car use in cities to hurt Putin, report urges

Strong measures by Europe could quickly deprive Russia of oil and gas income worth billions, experts say

Flights should be banned in continental Europe and car use banned in city centres to save energy and prevent Vladimir Putin profiting from fossil fuel sales, campaigners have said.

It would be possible for Europe to quickly end its reliance on oil and gas from Russia by taking strong measures, according to a report by the climate adviser Mark Lynas, energy analyst Rauli Partanen, and energy and sustainability installations specialist Joris van Dorp.

Policies include rationing, with everyone in Europe allowed the same minimum amount of energy to use, and limiting thermostats to 18C in winter.

“The biggest problem is gas. In total last year Europe imported 155 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia,” the authors said. Critics of the EU’s oil and gas policy have pointed out that hydrocarbon sales are financing the war in Ukraine.

Even the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said recently: “We’ve given Ukraine nearly €1bn. That might seem like a lot but €1bn is what we’re paying Putin every day for the energy he provides us with. Since the start of the war, we’ve given him €35bn [£29bn], compared to the €1bn we’ve given Ukraine to arm itself.”

The report’s authors said: “We conclude it is possible to eliminate Russian gas imports starting immediately in Europe. This will require an unprecedented level of European solidarity, a combination of a Marshall plan and a Berlin airlift to redistribute energy around the continent as needed and support the transition.”

The International Energy Agency recently released a 10-point plan to reduce demand for oil use in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, with suggestions including subsidised public transport, lower speed limits and a reduction in business flights. The authors of the latest report from the RePlanet Research Institute, however, say such measures would reduce demand by 2.7m barrels a day in advanced economies, still substantially less than Russian oil exports to Europe.

The authors argue that we need to go further, and say they have worked out how to eliminate 25% of all oil use in Europe.

“We propose bans on all business flights, private jets and internal flights within Europe to save oil, and bans also on car use within cities,” they said. “This should be combined with free public transport. While the impacts of this are not easily quantified, we believe this could double the reduction in oil use beyond that proposed by the IEA.”

To replace the gas Europe buys from Russia, the authors recommend measures including stopping the nuclear phaseout in Germany, Sweden and Belgium, reducing heating in buildings by 4C, and a fast-track deployment of additional solar and wind generation.

These policies could be popular in Europe. New polling conducted by Savanta ComRes found that 41% of people polled in the UK, Germany Poland, France, Sweden and the Netherlands said they “strongly agreed” that their country should immediately stop buying Russian oil and gas. Only 6.4% strongly disagreed.

Just over 40% said they would be prepared to accept energy rationing to manage demand, and 52.7% that they would eat less meat to reduce demand on Ukrainian exports.

“Europe is sending over €500m every day directly to the Kremlin because we continue to import vast quantities of Russian oil, gas and coal. This situation cannot continue,” the authors of the report said.

“It is morally and politically untenable for Europe to fund Putin’s war machine – paying for the same missiles and bombs that are raining down on Ukrainian schools and hospitals – at the same time as supposedly uniting to stop Putin through sanctions. There is only one solution. We must cut off this torrent of money we are sending to the Kremlin by immediately stopping our imports of Russian fossil fuels.”


Helena Horton Environment reporter

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Europe's dependency on Russian gas may be cut amid energy efficiency focus

EU leaders in talks about imposing new sanctions focused on fundraising capabilities of Russian oil and gas companies

Arthur Neslen

08, Sep, 2014 @11:02 PM

Article image
Oil and gas companies are looking at a bonanza from the Ukraine war
Analysis: fear of shortages gives fossil fuel companies leverage with governments that could be disastrous for the climate

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

10, Mar, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Concerns as EU bank balks at plan to halt fossil fuel investments
Last-minute lobbying forces delay to ambitious move by European Investment Bank

Jonathan Watts Global environment editor

15, Oct, 2019 @2:09 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Russian gas: a compelling reason to go green | Editorial
Editorial: Vladimir Putin’s cynical extortion makes as eloquent a case for the clean energy transition as any environmental idealist


27, Jul, 2022 @5:30 PM

Article image
UK aims to become hub for Arctic oil exploration

Foreign Office strategy likely to enrage conservationists while Greenpeace activists are imprisoned in Russia

Fiona Harvey

17, Oct, 2013 @8:30 AM

Article image
UK fuel exports to Netherlands up by 67% in June, data shows
HMRC figures come as Europe rushes to bank supplies for winter in absence of Russian pipeline

Lisa O'Carroll

12, Aug, 2022 @1:42 PM

Article image
EU plans ‘massive’ increase in green energy to help end reliance on Russia
European Commission says extra €210bn needed over next five years to pay for phasing out of Russian fossil fuels

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

18, May, 2022 @1:24 PM

Article image
Rich countries must stop producing oil and gas by 2034, says study
Poorest states should be given until 2050, says research aiming to set out fair way of ending fossil fuel economy

Matthew Taylor

22, Mar, 2022 @12:01 AM

Article image
A guide to the UK energy security strategy
Amid a cost-of-living crisis the government is attempting to secure energy supplies and try to dampen soaring costs

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

19, Mar, 2022 @9:00 AM

Article image
Fossil fuel firms ‘have humanity by the throat’, says UN head in blistering attack
António Guterres compares climate inaction to tobacco firms dismissing links between smoking and cancer

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

17, Jun, 2022 @1:00 PM