Sir Richard Branson has called for lower speed limits to reduce the West’s reliance on Russian energy and suggested that airlines could cut some flights to help Ukraine.

The founder of the Virgin Group proposed that governments drop speed limits on motorways by 10 miles per hour "in order to support Ukraine".

He told CNBC the measure would have a significant impact if it were adopted by all 31 countries that are part of the International Energy Agency, including the UK.

Branson said this is one of several steps that would reduce the demand for fuel, which include companies being required to use 5-10% less fuel.

He said every business and individual needs to do their bit, calling on households to reduce their use of heating and air conditioning by 1%.

"If you’re an airline, maybe [cutting] a couple of routes that are not making a lot of money," he added.

″[If] you spread it out across all businesses and everybody around the world, the price of oil would come down dramatically and we would not have to continue to send checks to Putin."

Branson stopped short of addressing how the Virgin Group’s companies – including the airline Virgin Altantic and spaceflight firm Virgin Galactic – would reduce their own fuel consumption immediately, speaking instead more generally.

Virgin Atlantic has previously outlined plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which was not discussed in the interview.

Cost of living ‘would fall dramatically’

Branson said: "If we can reduce the West’s dependence on fuel, say by just 10%, that will free up something like three billion barrels of fuel."

"That will be plenty to make sure that countries like Germany do not have to import anymore," he added, referring to European countries’ reliance on Russian energy.

Russia is a significant source of energy for consumers globally.

The EU is especially reliant, importing 45% of its gas from Russia in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

Branson said if the demand for fuel decreases its prices will drop and "the cost of living will come down dramatically".

"This is a win-win for everybody, and in particular, it’s a win-win for Ukraine," he said.

"There are young people fighting in Ukraine and dying every day against Putin, who’s getting his war chest from us buying his oil and his coal and his gas. That just needs to stop as fast as possible."

His remarks run counter to suggestions by some market observers, who believe that a rapid reduction of Russian energy use could lead to the further destabilisation of already volatile energy prices.

Branson said his proposals represent the views of a group of business leaders known as the B Team.

The non-profit, which he co-founded in 2012, aims to achieve "accountability in business", according to its website.

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