As world leaders gather for meetings at the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit, the urgency of addressing the climate crisis cannot be overstated. At the same time, we must confront Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, where innocent lives are being lost daily.
Over-dependence on Russian fossil fuels has already created severe energy insecurity, helped wreck the climate, and continued to threaten democracy.
Russia's war connects these seemingly disparate issues, and the role of the international community and multinational companies in indirectly supporting violence by facilitating Russia’s fossil fuel industry must be addressed.
The U.S., as a leader on the global stage, must spearhead efforts to create full and transparent sanctions against Russia’s fossil fuel industry. Equally important is holding U.S. companies like Halliburton accountable for their role in sustaining this industry.
As we discuss international climate action, it is essential to recognize that real progress means keeping Russian fossil fuels in the ground. Cutting down oil and gas production in Russia should be a priority for both ending the war in Ukraine and mitigating climate change.
While climate change threatens the planet, the expansion of Russian fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG), poses a dire threat to energy security, climate stability, and global peace.
As U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in New York, the U.S. must strengthen sanctions on Russia to halt the growth of this infrastructure. We also can’t ignore the fact that LNG expansion in the U.S. will also lock us in gas export dependency if the renewable energy revolution is not fast-tracked.
Furthermore, Russia has amassed about $445 billion for its exports of fossil fuels, and G20 countries that cause 80% of world emissions have paid $314 billion of this sum as of Sept. 1.
Ukraine has also called for major financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and HSBC to be prosecuted for war crimes for allegedly financing companies that trade oil with Russia. TotalEnergies, a France-based multinational corporation, has faced accusations of complicity in war crimes due to its involvement in Russia’s energy sector.
In particular, the recent exposure of multinational fracking corporation Halliburton sending over $7 million worth of oil refining hardware to Russia highlights the need for immediate action, not empty promises.
These revelations cast a shadow over the role of Western companies in the ongoing violence in Ukraine.
The time to move forward and build out clean-energy solutions to the climate crisis is now, at the same time as Russia’s fossil fuel-propelled war is raging in Ukraine. It is not enough to merely express concern; we must take concrete steps to stop these crises.
To bridge the gap between climate action and accountability for Ukraine, we propose a two-fold approach.
Strengthening sanctions and oversight
The U.S. and its allies must enhance sanctions against Russian critical industries, especially oil and gas extraction and exports, which are key sources of revenue to fund the war.
Embargoes and secondary sanctions on entities involved in cooperation with the Russian oil and gas industry are only partial thus far and are limited in effect.
In the U.S., legal action is expected to close the “refining loophole,” which allows Russian oil to be laundered and flow into the U.S., by banning the import of oil products produced from Russian crude in countries like India and Turkey.
For its part, the EU is working on a 12th sanctions package, which should include an embargo on Russian LNG.
Regulatory bodies should intensify oversight of financial institutions' transactions with entities connected to the Russian government.
Transparency and accountability should be at the forefront of these efforts, and it must be the responsibility of national governments to monitor and hold firms operating under their oversight responsible.
Responsible corporate conduct
Multinational corporations operating in Russia must engage in responsible business conduct. This includes conducting due diligence to ensure their operations do not indirectly support war crimes or human rights violations.
Companies that fail to uphold ethical standards should face legal consequences and reputational damage.
New York Climate Week provides an opportunity for world leaders, corporations, and individuals to align their actions with the principles of justice, peace, and environmental stewardship and start their full-speed shift to a renewable energy future.
Empty promises will no longer suffice. To secure a sustainable future, we must simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and demand accountability for those inadvertently financing violence in Ukraine.
As we embark on a journey toward a greener, more just world, let us ensure that our steps are marked by integrity, responsibility, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of all, both on our planet and in regions marred by war and conflict.
The people of the world demand not only words but actions from their leaders to save the climate and create peace, and I will be keeping up the pressure to make them act at this pivotal moment of history.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Kyiv Independent.