Ukraine’s war against Russia is a war against dictatorship, against fossil fuels and for our independence. At last week’s G20 leaders summit, ostensibly democratic India — the G20 host — gave the aggressive petrostate Russia the floor but failed to invite Ukraine — a worrying sign.
Today, the active involvement of many G20 countries in the development of Russian oil and gas projects and related infrastructure poses dire consequences for democracy and peace in the world. The lack of response to this from democratic G20 members — including Canada and the U.S. — raises concerns about the future of democracy.
The rise of petro-fascism in Russia shows how autocratic leaders can use oil and gas revenues to consolidate political power, execute state capture, boost propaganda and maintain control over the population, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of citizens’ lives as cannon fodder and engaging in mass killings of civilians in the attacked country.
To try to replace its former European gas customers, Russian officials are making every effort to engage G20 countries in joint venture infrastructure projects. Russia's gas industry can make up for lost production volumes in the next five to seven years if it restructures gas supply routes, finds new buyers in Asia and expands its gas infrastructure with new pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
Last year, the international response to Russia's war against Ukraine launched unprecedented sanctions on Russian fossil fuels, restricting imports and exports, and establishing a price limit. These measures negatively affected Russia's economy. But western democracies succumbed to the interests of the oil and gas industry, repeating grave mistakes once again.
Some countries and regions — such as Canada, Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union — responded to the gravity of Russia's violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and grave human rights violations by imposing an oil price cap and sanctions on oil and oil products. Others, like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, have not adopted any sanctions. Their national companies continue to co-operate with Russian ones.
Against the backdrop of loosening oil and gas sanctions, Russia’s economy has grown slowly but steadily since spring. According to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Russia's GDP dropped by 2.1 per cent in 2022. Experts from the IMF pointed out that after a steep decline in the second quarter of 2022, Russia’s economy recovered in the third and fourth quarters. Forecasts show Russia's GDP is expected to increase by 0.7 per cent in 2023 and 1.3 per cent in 2024.
The IMF notes that improved external trade performance and sustained oil exports led to record oil-and-gas profits and supported the economy last year. Provided with cash from oil and gas exports, Russia owes its economic growth mainly to the massively increased production of weapons and ammunition.
French energy giant Total Energies, which also has extensive business in Canada, announced $11.5 billion in profits in 2023. The company continues its trade of Russian liquified gas and maintains shares in joint ventures with Novatek, the largest private gas producer in Russia. The French fossil fuel firm is the second largest buyer of Russian LNG this year, purchasing over 10 per cent of the country's shipments from the Yamal LNG terminal, which Total partly owns.
The active involvement of many G20 countries in the development of Russian oil and gas projects and related infrastructure poses dire consequences for democracy and peace in the world, writes @SvitlanaRomanko. #StandWithUkraine
Total Energies also facilitates further expansion of Russian LNG by participating in another joint venture with Novatek, Arctic LNG-2. The Arctic LNG-2 project is the largest LNG infrastructure expansion project in Russia, with many international engineering companies involved. It can unlock production at new gas fields in northernmost regions, where ecosystems already suffer from devastating impacts of climate change, and will lead to massive emissions of methane into the atmosphere.
increased supplies of Russian LNG pose a potential threat to the EU’s energy security. The EU's LNG imports from Russia are rising. Should this trend continue through the second half of this year, EU clients would receive around 20 billion cubic metres of gas, equivalent to the capacity of one line of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The only difference is these supplies come from Novatek, a company owned by a close friend of Russia's President Vladimir Putin. The sale of LNG via Novatek will continue to provide income for the Russian elite.
Countries with significant fossil fuel reserves, such as oil and gas, can become heavily dependent on the revenue generated from their extraction and export. The dependency on fossil fuels can weaken institutions and hinder the development of diverse economies, corrupting politics and facilitating state capture. The same relates to those countries overdependent on imports of oil and gas.
The G20 host, India, falls in the second category. Canada falls in the first.
Following the hottest summer on record, Canada needs to take a close, hard look at its energy sources. Canada must actively join the effort to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency — a goal agreed to in the G20 Leaders Summit Declaration released last Saturday. Canada must work to diversify its economy, not lock in fossil fuels that damage our climate, weaken democracy and fund wars.
Svitlana Romanko is the founder and director of the Ukrainian organization Razom We Stand, which grew out of the successful #StandWithUkraine campaign to end the global fossil fuel addiction that feeds Putin’s war machine. Romanko launched and co-ordinated both groups once the Russian war against Ukraine began. She has been an environmental lawyer for over 20 years and a high-impact climate justice campaigner for a decade. In 2022, Romanko was awarded the Rose Braz Award for Bold Activism. She holds a PhD in environmental, natural resources, land and agrarian law, and a doctorate in climate change law, climate governance and climate policy. She worked for 350.org and the Laudato Si Movement and has been a senior consultant for a Just Green Recovery and Green Deal in Eastern Europe.