Ben Niblett writes that there are two emergencies at play today. There’s a climate emergency threatening the lives of millions of people and threatening to destroy much that we hold dear. Now Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine threatens the lives of many thousands, and to destroy much that we hold dear. The two emergencies overlap.
Fossil fuels and the War
Russia’s economy depends heavily on selling fossil fuels, especially gas, and also oil and coal. Without the money from these exports, Russia couldn’t pay for the troops and equipment they’re using in Ukraine.
Many countries have joined in economic sanctions against Russia, like stopping Russian banks using the international SWIFT transfer system. Many have sanctions on individual wealthy - and often corrupt - Russians close to the government, like impounding luxury yachts - which has caused a little refugee crisis for oligarch’s yachts, many are heading for the Maldives to avoid being seized. It’s a mirror image for the hyperconsuming mega-rich of the real refugee crisis of Ukrainians fleeing with only what they can carry.
All these sanctions are having an impact, with the Russian rouble losing value. Western companies like Shell and ExxonMobil are selling off their Russian holdings. But so far most sanctions haven’t covered Russia’s fossil fuel. Canada is an exception, but they hardly buy any; most of Russia’s main customers are in Europe, and they’re still buying the gas and oil and paying in dollars. Germany have decided not to start using the new Nordstrom 2 gas pipeline from Russia, but Nordstream 1 and many other pipelines are still in business.
At the UNEA meeting in Nairobi that we’re still celebrating, the Ukrainian delegate called for a boycott of Russian fossil fuels - the biggest thing we needed to do for the climate may also be the biggest thing we can do to deter Russia. Let’s pray for it to happen.
But it won’t be easy. Europe in particular depends on Russian gas to stay warm in the winter, and to generate electricity all year round. So, as the International Energy Agency say in their plan, this should speed up the shift to much cheaper renewables which is already happening, and reduces bills too - in many places it’s now cheaper to build a new wind or solar farm than to keep a gas power plant going. We should get a faster shift to replacing gas boilers with heat pumps, which is happening fast in a few countries but slowly in most.
This will take time, and in the meantime there’s a risk European countries burn more coal for electricity and ship in more gas which helps Ukraine somewhat but boosts the fossil fuel prices Russia depends on, and is worse for the climate. They may also extend their nuclear power plants, a better climate option. They may speed up energy efficiency and insulating buildings. Millions of Europeans may turn down their heating to use less gas and help Ukraine - as many already have because of high prices. Those high prices are worldwide and have already hit hard in many poorer countries even before the Russian invasion sent them even higher. But if anything persuades more governments to treat the climate emergency as an emergency, especially in Europe, it may be the emergency in Ukraine.
Here is how we can take action and support Ukraine right now
Christians around the world are united in prayer for Ukraine. Prayer is our first and last resort. Renew Our World members the World Evangelical Alliance, Tearfund and Integra (and many others) have guides to prayer and fasting, for peace, for the Ukrainian people under attack, and also for Russian people who had no say in this war.
We’re also praying faithfully for God to move to protect the climate. Here’s Renew Our World’s prayer resources and many of our members and friends have more. We need to keep praying persistently.
It’s encouraging to know you’re not alone. We’re a movement that covers many countries, united to overcome poverty and injustice and to care for creation - international solidarity comes naturally to Christians.
There are symbols of unity, like the Ukrainian flag or Tearfund’s idea of baking bread.
For those closer to Ukraine, there’s practical support to Ukrainian refugees, like our member Integra who are serving people fleeing across the frontier into Slovakia. The World Evangelical Alliance are serving Ukrainians in many places. Tearfund and Tearfund Canada have appeals too. Please do give money to whichever one is closest to you if you can.