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Groups call on leaders to help end Ukraine war, reliance on fossil fuels

Over 500 civil society organisations (CSOs) from six continents on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, urged world leaders in a letter to renew international efforts to stop the Russian war in Ukraine and to end a dangerous dependence on fossil fuels that is driving war, instability and conflicts globally.

Ukraine war
Ukraine warfront

Two months after the start of the war, which continues to kill and displace millions of people in Ukraine, the letter calls on national leaders to view this moment as an inflection point and usher in global peace, international solidarity and stability that is built around the rapid, just and equitable transition to renewables and energy efficiency technologies.

The letter states: “Humanity now faces a cascade of emergencies. The Russian military, business and political elites around President Putin are committing brutal crimes in Russia’s war in Ukraine, annihilating basic principles of state sovereignty and undermining democracy. At the same time, the climate crisis is wreaking an “atlas of human suffering”. These crises may seem entirely independent, but they share the same dangerous thread: dependence on fossil fuels.”

The letter specifically urges leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion, tax windfall profits, and eliminate subsidies and other financial support to the oil, coal, and gas industry. The letter also demands that safe, distributed, democratic renewable energy systems and energy-efficiency technologies proliferate in the place of fossil fuels and reach the one billion people still without electricity.

“Importantly, the renewable energy future must not repeat the violence of the extractive, fossil fuel past. Justice must ground this transition to redress the climate, colonialist, racist, socioeconomic, and ecological injustices of the fossil fuel era,” the letter states.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report confirming the scientific mandate to make rapid and deep cuts in carbon emissions – by phasing out all fossil fuels and making transformative shifts for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and forest and ecosystem conservation – for a viable chance to preserve a liveable planet.

CSO representatives have reacted to the development.

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, said: “We see the grubby, dirty fingerprints of the fossil fuel industry all over this illegal invasion of Ukraine. The blood money funding this war and many such conflicts is from a dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. Long before this war started millions of us have been demanding an end to the fossil fuel era- and we now demand this more urgently and more loudly. Fossil fuels are a clear and present danger to us all- and the most recent science has confirmed this.

“We demand an alternate future for humanity and all that thrives on this planet, one built on renewables, peace, and democracy. It is our best and only chance for peace and survival.”

Olha Boiko, coordinator of Climate Action Network Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia: “Russia is waging a war on Ukraine, but also on the climate. It has been supplying the world with fossil fuels for decades, creating dependencies which are now being used for blackmail. Are we learning our historical lesson yet? Quitting Russian coal, oil and gas which fuel the war on Ukraine should only be the first step for the world. Countries must break free from their fossil fuel addiction and stop jumping from one supplier to another.

“We want to see the criminal fossil fuel industry end in the closest decade and transition to renewable energy as fast as possible. There should be no place for dirty and harmful energy suppliers in the world we’re building.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia: “The war in Ukraine, like many recent wars in the last few decades, is being enabled by the world’s greed for fossil fuels and like all wars it is causing shortages and inflation around the world. Taken together with the relentless effects of climate change, and the post-pandemic slow economic recovery, the global south is faced with unprecedented challenges to ensure its very survival. Now more than ever, it is time for peace, and for concerted efforts by the world governments to come together to address climate change. For that to happen the world must phase out fossil fuels and embrace new renewable energy technologies at the earliest.”

Glen Klatovsky, acting Executive Director, Climate Action Network Australia: “Fossil fuels are making the world a much more dangerous place. Not just in terms of the impacts of climate change, but also in terms of geopolitical forces. Ukraine is the perfect example. The world will be a much safer, much more amenable place for all of humanity once we have weaned ourselves off dependency on oil, coal and gas. Australia has the opportunity to fast-track the transition to renewable energy as we have abundant solar and wind potential. It is our duty to all of humanity to rapidly move Australia from exporting coal and gas to exporting green hydrogen and ammonia.”

Aurore Mathieu, International Policy Officer of Climate Action Network France: “As the current President of the European Union Council, France must lead the way to push for bold and radical energy reforms that are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal. These reforms must include energy savings and efficiency measures to secure a sustainable and just future.”

David Le Page, coordinator, Fossil Free South Africa (member of SA CAN): “Fossil fuels, when their external costs are properly accounted for, are now costing us all far more than we realise. The era of apparently cheap, easy fossil energy is well behind us; it ended in the 1970s, in fact. Now that cheaper alternatives exist, every nation that genuinely respects the human rights of its citizens must accelerate transition away from this deadly dependency.”

Fatima Ahouli, Regional Coordinator, CAN Arab World: “Nothing justifies killing anyone, let alone innocent and unarmed citizens, whose lives are disrupted and flipped upside down. The war on Ukraine is a war of greed and vengeance. A war over unsustainable dirt. Fossil fuels have only created damage and injustice all over the world.  It is time to put an end to it.”

Alejandro Aleman, Node Coordinator, Climate Action Network Latin America: “Extractivism has for centuries been the root cause of displacement, extermination and injustice. This same extractivist and colonial model continues to cause suffering for vulnerable people and communities. The barbarism reflected in Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people is a case in point.

“The elimination of fossil fuel consumption today is more urgent than ever, and not just fossil fuels originating from Russia. The transition to renewables is a must to stop financing this and other wars across the world. Such a transition will not only prevent further losses and damages attributable to the climate crisis in the future but will also limit the potential for further brutalities and abuses by those in power.”

Nithi Nesadurai, Director and Regional Coordinator, Climate Action Network Southeast Asia: “At a time when the world needs to solely focus its attention on averting the ongoing climate emergency in this brief, rapidly closing window of time to secure a liveable future, the war in Ukraine poses an unmitigated disaster and tragedy. It is clear fossil fuels are used as a tool for blackmail in the current geopolitics.

“It is time the global community weans itself off fossil fuels, shifts money away from fossil fuel production and subsidies and invests in renewable energy solutions. This transformation should be accompanied with a just transition framework to ensure the shift towards renewable and net-zero carbon emissions is fair to all, especially the most vulnerable communities.”

Evan Gach, Node Coordinator, Climate Action Network Japan: “It is clear that our use of and reliance on fossil fuels is a threat to our safety – by impacting our climate, our public health, and our security. Delaying the shift to renewable energy and extending the life of fossil fuels means continuing to expose ourselves to these impacts, which will only worsen as the climate crisis grows. Now more than ever, phasing out fossil fuels means protecting all of us from threats to our safety and security.”

Laurie van der Burg, Co-manager Global Public Finance Campaign, Oil Change International: “Fossil fuel extraction is fuelling militarism and human rights violations worldwide, and the war in Ukraine is only the latest tragic example. In Mozambique new gas developments have recently led to exacerbated violence, killings and displacement. The only effective response to today’s compounding crises is for global leaders to support the efficiency and clean energy solutions that can replace these dirty fuels, whether produced in Russia or elsewhere, and eliminate the need for any new LNG infrastructure.

“The pandemic has shown that governments can rapidly mobilize massive sums of public money. This is the moment to do it and accelerate the transition to a clean and fair future without fossil-fuelled conflict.”

Jean Su, Energy Justice Director, Centre for Biological Diversity: “The fossil fuel blood money funding Russia’s war machine reveals the link between dirty energy and deadly conflict. Democracy and the future of life on Earth depend on breaking fossil fuels’ dominance in favour of renewable-energy independence. Fossil fuels are incompatible with a peaceful and just future, and world leaders must act accordingly.”

Read full letter to world leaders here.

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