The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called on companies to deprive Russia of oil revenues through temporarily cutting their business flying by 40 per cent.
A report from the IEA, entitled A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, says replacing two in five business flights with virtual conferencing would lessen demand by 260,000 barrels per day in the short term, also helping to reduce fast-rising oil prices and improve environmental sustainability.
Business travel reduction combined with the other nine recommendations in the report would help advanced economies cut oil demand by a total of 2.7 million barrels a day over the next four months, the agency estimated. Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer and its largest exporter.
“These efforts would reduce the price pain being felt by consumers around the world, lessen the economic damage, shrink Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues, and help move oil demand towards a more sustainable pathway,” said the IEA.
According to a Reuters report published in January, oil and natural gas sales accounted for 36 per cent of Russia’s total budget in 2021, when the price of oil averaged US$69 per barrel. Since then, oil has rocketed towards $150 per barrel, adding even greater revenues to the coffers of President Vladimir Putin.
Commenting on the IEA report, Barbara Pompili, minister for the ecological transition of France (which currently holds the presidency of the European Union), said: “France and all European countries must get out of their dependence on fossil fuels, in particular on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible. It is an absolute necessity, for the climate but also for our energy sovereignty.”
The IEA report said that, in addition to actions by national governments, “several of the measures can be implemented directly by other layers of government – such as state, regional or local – or just voluntarily followed by citizens and companies, enabling them to save money while showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
It goes on to claim that before the coronavirus pandemic around one-fifth of air passenger trips were for business purposes.
“A significant reduction of around two out of every five flights taken for business purposes is feasible in the short term, based on the notable changes witnessed during the Covid pandemic,” the report said.
It noted that several major corporations, including HSBC, Zurich Insurance, Bain & Company and S&P Global, have already announced targets to cut business travel emissions by as much as 70 per cent.
The IEA said: “High oil prices may disincentivise airlines to operate underutilised routes in response to reduced business travel. But, to maximise the impact, governments can provide flexibility on flight slot allocations so as to minimise the occurrence of ghost flights.”
Ghost flights are passenger-less flights operated by airlines solely for the purpose of protecting airport departure and landing slot rights.
Some of the other ten recommendations in the report also relate to business travel, including working from home up to three days a week where possible, making the use of public transport cheaper, increasing car sharing, using high-speed and night trains instead of aircraft where possible, and switching to electric and other energy-efficient cars.