Last week, this column reported the UN Secretary-General’s warning that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened to derail global action on climate change. Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as well as Russia’s role as a major supplier of oil to the South, including India, has led many analysts around the world to call it a fossil fuel war. Barely a week after António Guterres’ warning, it appears that major fossil fuel-producing countries are uniting to push back the adoption of renewable energy (RE), in the name of energy security.
In a series of international meetings over the past week, oil and gas producing countries in the Middle East have taken advantage of rising oil prices and the West’s need for cheap gas to say effectively: “Who is talking about climate change now? These were the words of the Saudi Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, at the world summit of governments (March 29-30) in Dubai. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now opposing the UN’s call for a radical move away from fossil fuels over the next decade.
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During the recently concluded Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Climate Week (March 28-31), OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo asserted that the climate action and the role of oil and gas are not “mutually exclusive”. He said that “oil and gas will continue to be part of the overall energy mix. Investments must continue on the oil and gas front. He added that oil and gas “will continue to represent more than 50% of the global energy mix until 2045”.
Another talking point that has seen a resurgence, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted global energy supplies, is that climate action will take time, and until then the world must be pragmatic about “short-term goals”. Sultan Al-Jaber, the United Arab Emirates’ special envoy for climate change and also chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s national oil company, during a speech at the Atlantic Council Forum, said policymakers in favor to climate action agree with this point of view. “They recognize that the transition will take time. They orient their policies to ensure that short-term energy security is not compromised by long-term goals. And they have now come to the same conclusion that we came to a while ago, that we need to hold back shows, not progress,” he said.
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All this adds up to a grim change in the international scenario. As things stand, emissions continue to rise, meaningful climate action is non-existent, and the effects of global warming are wreaking havoc across the globe. Climate science is very clear that to stay on track to keep global temperatures from breaching the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, governments around the world would have to commit to no longer extracting other sources of fuels. fossil fuels such as oil, coal or gas. This is essentially what the oil-producing countries are against.
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International energy research has repeatedly shown that any negative economic impact of switching to renewables will be eclipsed by the cost of a late switch-off. A report published last September showed that 60% of oil and gas reserves and 90% of coal reserves in the world must remain underground and cannot be used if we are to have even a 50% chance of success. avoid the worst impacts of climate change. He also said that countries in the Middle East, which account for more than half of the world’s oil reserves, must keep 62% of the oil in the ground. The Russian war and the resulting need for ‘Net Zero’ countries like the US, UK and EU countries to maintain their current dependence on gas, now allows countries like Saudi Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to steer the conversation away from climate action. .
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