In the face of the emerging global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, practical actions by governments and citizens in advanced economies and beyond could achieve significant reductions in oil demand in a matter of months, according to new analysis released by the International Energy Agency (IEA). These efforts, says IEA, would shrink Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues, help move oil demand towards a more sustainable pathway, reduce the price pain being felt by consumers around the world and lessen the economic damage.

And if fully carried out in advanced economies, the measures recommended by IEA’s new 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use would lower oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months – equivalent, it says, to the oil demand of all the cars in China.

Although this is less than 3% of daily global use, IEA says this would “significantly reduce potential strains at a time when a large amount of Russian supplies may no longer reach the market and the peak demand season of July and August is approaching”.

IEA points out that the majority of oil demand comes from transport, and its 10-Point Plan focuses on how to use “less oil getting people and goods from A to B”, while “drawing on concrete measures that have already been put to use in a diverse range of countries and cities”.

The short-term actions proposed include reducing the amount of oil consumed by cars through lower speed limits, working from home, occasional limits on car access to city centres, cheaper public transport, more carpooling and other initiatives – and greater use of high-speed rail and virtual meetings instead of air travel.

“As a result of Russia’s appalling aggression against Ukraine, the world may well be facing its biggest oil supply shock in decades, with huge implications for our economies and societies,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, who launched the Plan with Barbara Pompili, the Minister for the Ecological Transition of France, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union.

“IEA Member Countries have already stepped in to support the global economy with an initial release of millions of barrels of emergency oil stocks, but we can also take action on demand to avoid the risk of a crippling oil crunch,” Dr Birol said. “Our 10-Point Plan shows this can be done through measures that have already been tested and proven in multiple countries.”

“European countries must get out of their dependence on fossil fuels, in particular on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible,” Minister Pompili said. “It is an absolute necessity, for the climate but also for our energy sovereignty. The plan proposed today by the IEA offers some interesting ideas, some of which are in line with our own ideas to reduce our dependence on oil.”

Most of the proposed actions in the 10-Point Plan would require changes in the behaviour of consumers, supported by government measures. How and if these actions are implemented, says IEA, is subject to each country’s own circumstances – in terms of their energy markets, transport infrastructure, social and political dynamics and other aspects.

Ultimately, however, it adds, “reducing oil demand does not depend solely on 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 corporates, enabling them to save money while showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

The IEA report notes that sustained reductions are important not only to improve countries’ energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution. “Governments have all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, and the report sets out the key ones to achieve this goal.”

IEA 10-Point Plan proposes the following short-term actions to ease strains and price pain:

  • Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h — Impact: Saves 430 kb/day; around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks
  • Work from home up to three days a week where possible — Impact: One day a week saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
  • Car-free Sundays in cities Impact: Every Sunday saves around 380 kb/d; one Sunday a month saves 95 kb/d
  • Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micromobility, walking and cycling — Impact: Saves around 330 kb/d
  • Alternate private car access to roads in large cities Impact: Saves around 210 kb/d
  • Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use — Impact: Saves around 470 kb/d
  • Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods Impact: Saves around 320 kb/d
  • Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist — Impact: Saves around 260 kb/d
  • Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles — Impact: Saves around 100 kb/d
  • Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible Impact: Saves around 40 kb/d

Note *: IEA says impacts are short term and reflect implementation in advanced economies where feasible and culturally acceptable; kb/d = thousand barrels of oil a day. IEA predicts total global daily crude oil demand of around 100 mb/d in 2022