Dipping Into African Oil Reserves Sets Dangerous Precedent

Dipping Into African Oil Reserves Sets Dangerous Precedent

On Twitter, during COP27, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni castigated the West for its "reprehensible double standard” with regards to climate targets in response to news that Germany decided to raze wind turbines to put in a coal-fueled power plant. "It makes a mockery of Western commitments to climate targets,” he wrote.

Some of his criticisms ring true -- as the Global South faces the worst effects of climate change alongside pressure to decarbonize, the wealthiest Western countries continue to emit. As CNN reported:

The African continent has remained the most vulnerable to climate change despite having the lowest emissions and contributing the least to global warming. While wealthy nations (who are the largest emission producers) are better equipped to manage the impacts of climate change, poorer countries like those in Africa are not.

In a statement released on his official website, Museveni wrote: "Europe’s failure to meet its climate goals should not be Africa’s problem.”

NBC: Low Income Countries Bear Brunt Of Climate Change, September 23, 2022.

CNBC: Why developing nations say it's time for rich countries to pay up, November 7, 2022.

But it seems the "double standard” could be applied to Museveni as well. Though he rightly points out the West’s failure to stick to their climate goals, he plans to explore Uganda’s oil reserves despite warnings from the EU that doing so would put ecosystems and citizens at risk. While he emphasizes that the use of African reserves would only increase the continent’s relatively low emissions by a mere half-percent, the world must undertake no new fossil fuel development in order to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Ugandan dependence on fossil fuels could set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the continent.

DW: Climate crisis | Widening emissions gap threatens meltdown, October 27, 2022.

DW: Time is running out: WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

NTV Uganda: President Museveni reacts to EU’s resolution on East Africa’s oil pipeline project, September 28, 2022.

NTV Uganda: President Museveni’s dicta on environment, August 13, 2022.

Why This Matters

The latest Climate Change Performance Index report revealed that the entire EU has been falling short on their commitments to emissions reduction. Germany, in particular, continues to back new fossil fuel infrastructure both at home and abroad -- in response to the energy crisis, the country is planning to fund new gas development projects in Senegal. Yet the world must work together to decarbonize -- all carbon emissions put the planet in danger, no matter what country they come from.

Germanwatch: CCPI 2023 Press Conference, November 16, 2022.

Bloomberg: Europe’s Energy Nightmare Has Only Just Begun, November 8, 2022.

DW: This is just how unfair climate change is, May 21, 2021.

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to CNN's Connect the World about the extreme heat, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.

Fossil Fuel Lobbying Hits COP27

Given new renewable policies and an overall shrink in demand worldwide, gas revenues are expected to plummet by 2040. Yet Africa has huge swathes of gas reserves that oil companies -- particularly Western ones -- are looking to seize upon, despite economic risks. There were 630 fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 (over a 100 more than at COP26) seeking to capitalize on the negotiations, which was, as the Guardian reported, “a rise of more than 25% from last year… outnumbering any one frontline community affected by the climate crisis.” Big gas companies are styling themselves as “climate leaders” even as they seek to develop more fossil fuels.

But gas is not the only option for countries seeking to develop -- many renewables are well-suited to the African continent. Solar, in particular, represents a massive opportunity. As CarbonTracker wrote:

Even though prior to the Ukraine conflict, solar was competitive with coal and gas for power generation, the conflict means that the continent should more than ever build solar as a means to decrease its dependence on from its global commodity market and achieve a secure and affordable source of domestic energy. Further acceleration of cost reduction will put Africa in a unique position as a beneficiary from one of the best abundance of solar potential on the planet.

International Renewable Energy Agency: How renewable energy could transform Africa's energy systems?, September 6, 2022.

Al Jazeera: Lighting up South Africa through solar power, September 24, 2022.

Global News: Climate activists concerned by spike in fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27, November 10, 2022.

Now This: 600+ Fossil Fuel Delegates Attend Egypt’s COP27, November 11, 2022.

CBS Mornings: Climate activist Vanessa Nakate shines spotlight on Africa at COP27 in Egypt, November 8, 2022.

TED: Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don't they? | Myles Allen, December 4, 2020.