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Some leaders in the developing world want to get out of the clean energy transition

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Nigeria’s Chairman of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Timipre Sylva, attends the ‘Saudi Green Initiative’ forum, in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. Sylva said this week that his country should be left out of the transition world towards clean energy. Credit: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Energy leaders from some developing countries in Africa and Asia, many of which have economies that rely heavily on fossil fuel extraction, are once again calling for their nations to be excluded from the effort to world’s transition to renewable energy. It’s a situation that raises questions about what a “just transition” should look like and whether wealthy countries, which are historically responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, are getting their fair share of the brunt. this effort.

At CERAWeek, the annual global energy conference in Houston this week, leaders from Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia reiterated that their countries are least responsible for climate change and that it would be unfair and detrimental to expect them to switch to clean energy at this point. to the development of their economies.

“We are still in the process of switching from firewood to gas,” Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s oil minister, told the conference. “Please allow us to continue our own transition.”

“They want all of us, including those of us without food, to bear the burden of the transition,” added Bala Wunti, chief executive of the country’s state-owned oil company.

The comments highlight how complicated the debate over the world’s transition to renewable energy has become and signal that the issues surrounding this debate could create a real stumbling block at next year’s global climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh. in Egypt.

Nigeria, like a handful of other developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its income. But there is another problem affecting more countries: some 900 million people worldwide, most of them in Africa, still do not have access to energy for their basic needs, Sylva said. Many leaders do not want to be limited in their ability to provide electricity to their populations from the cheapest and most reliable options, including where that option is natural gas.

Countries like the United States, Canada and Russia have long benefited economically from their fossil fuel exports. But the poorest countries that have not had the same opportunity to exploit oil reserves under their own land for profit, such as Malaysia, Ghana and Guyana, have said for years that there is no could not expect them to give up the opportunity to also benefit from an oil and gas market that has helped to enrich so many developed countries.

Some African countries, like Equatorial Guinea, are heavily dependent on revenues from oil and gas production and could face real financial problems if their ability to sell these products is limited.

Behind all of this is a concern that hundreds of millions of people lack access to energy, and that countries in sub-Saharan Africa in particular only account for a tiny fraction of greenhouse gas emissions. , and an even smaller share of historical emissions, said ICN oil chief Nicholas Kusnetz. and gas reporter. There is a feeling that wealthy countries pressuring the less developed to abandon fossil fuels, including efforts to cut off international funding for fossil fuel development, are therefore unfair, he said. added.

“The fact is that building a handful of natural gas power plants will have negligible impact on the climate, and any increase in emissions should be offset by rich countries cutting theirs,” Kusnetz said, reporting this week. of the Houston conference. .

Developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and much of Western Europe, represent only 12% of the world’s population today, but are responsible for 50% of all greenhouse gases greenhouse gases that warm the planet emitted by fossil fuels and industry in the past. 171 years old. And just 38 of the world’s richest nations account for more than two-thirds of global oil demand.

Yet it is the poorest countries in the world, and in particular the developing countries of the South, that feel the consequences of climate change the most. The small island nations of Kiribati, for example, could see up to two-thirds of their land mass swallowed up by the ocean by the end of the century if sea levels rise by just 3 feet. And in Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, more than a million people are on the brink of starvation, in part because climate change is worsening drought conditions.

In fact, the latest report from the IPCC, which assesses research conducted around the world on the state of global warming, shows more clearly than ever how greenhouse gas emissions from a minority of people in developed countries lead to deadly climate extremes like heat waves and droughts, while the poorest black and brown people in developing countries suffer disproportionately the consequences, including death, destruction of property, famine and displacement , reported ICN’s Bob Berwyn.

What economists call the “resource curse” further complicates debates about the energy transition in many developing countries with abundant fossil fuel reserves. That’s when the discovery of a valuable resource like gold or oil, which should benefit residents, ends up harming the public, leading to conflict, corruption, poverty and poor health outcomes.

Wealthy nations have attempted to respond to these complex realities by offering to assist poorer nations in their efforts to adapt to the climate crisis. In 2009, the world’s richest nations pledged to give the poorest nations $100 billion a year to adapt to climate change, starting in 2020. That pledge, however, only has to end. present not lived up to it.

But on Wednesday, US special envoy for climate change John Kerry said next year would be the year the United States and other wealthy countries fulfill their pledge. “We’re just a little timid for 2022,” Kerry told members of the United Nations Security Council. “It’s absolutely clear that we will have it for 2023. I still think we can get it for 2022.”

That’s all this week for today’s weather. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in your inbox next Tuesday.

(Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report)

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