•Insists current discussions based on emotions, not science
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr. Sanusi Barkindo, has advocated the deployment of modern technologies such as the Carbon Capture Utilisation Storage (CCUS) instead of pushing for a wholesale abandonment of fossil fuels.
Speaking at the Annual Legal Workshop of the Energy Charter Secretariat (ECS) and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the OPEC chief noted that current conversations surrounding the transition from hydrocarbons were being driven by emotions rather than science.
Barkindo who spoke on the theme: “Update on National Climate Laws and Jurisprudence Evolution-Emissions Reduction, Energy Access and Energy Security,” said although there was clear science-based evidence, the entire climate change discussion had been reduced to who is for or against fossil fuels.
Describing it as the ultimate false dichotomy, Barkindo stressed that it erroneously limits what options are available in reducing emissions, noting that within the discussion, “we are seeing a tendency for emotion to overtake science, rationalism, empirical evidence or fact.”
He argued that achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as some countries are now advocating, is not part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or the Paris Agreement, stating it is an extremely challenging goal, even for advanced economies.
According to him, this further underlines the massive challenges for developing countries to reach net zero emissions – many of whom are focused on such issues as energy access, living wages and supplying basic necessities.
Barkindo said OPEC has continuously been a promoter of both sustainable development and efforts to combat climate change, with a focus on the need to utilise all solutions to reduce emissions and adapt to their impact, and at the same time ensure energy access for all.
“The current turbulence in gas markets underscores the need for a diversified energy mix in a stable and equitable energy transition. We should have a holistic view of the energy sector, and not put all our eggs in one or two baskets.
“The issue of affordability is very much linked to the scourge of energy poverty, which must be considered within the context of sustainable development and the UN SDGs, with SDG7 calling for universal and sustainable energy access.
“Legislators and lawmakers need to be reminded that for billions, the day does not start by switching on a light, opening a refrigerator or turning the ignition on a car. Access to affordable and reliable modern energy is a right not a privilege as resolved at the UN –in SDG7,” he maintained.
He noted that the belief that the oil and gas industries should not be part of the energy future, that they should be consigned to the dustbin of history, and that the future was one that could be dominated by renewables and electric vehicles only, remains far-fetched.
“We need to correct this misleading, evolving narrative. It is important to state clearly that the science does not tell us this, and the statistics related to the blight of energy poverty do not tell us this either. What the science and statistics tell us is that we need to reduce emissions and use energy more efficiently.
“We need to show how the oil and gas industry can foster its resources and expertise and help unlock our carbon-free future, through its role as a powerful innovator in developing cleaner and more efficient technological solutions to help reduce emissions.
“For example, carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and blue hydrogen, as well in the promotion of the Circular Carbon Economy to improve overall environmental performance.
“We need to continually highlight the importance of environmentally and economically effective policies and laws that are equitable and just, as well as fair and inclusive strategies that ensure no one is left behind,” he emphasised.
In addition, he noted that the capacities and national circumstances of developing countries must be taken into account in all actions in order to not render countries already struggling even more besieged.
The Nigerian-born OPEC helmsman pointed out that financing remains critical to reach any climate targets set in developing countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Barkindo argued that while there has been a lot of talk about financing renewable sources of energy from developed countries, so far a disappointing amount of pledges have been realised.