Report: Why Europe’s Rush for Africa’s Gas Smacks of Hypocrisy

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja with agency report

Europe’s growing pressure on Nigeria and a handful of other African countries to produce more gas for export, while declining to fund such projects citing carbon emission reasons has hypocrisy written all over it, a Bloomberg treatise which sampled various opinions on the matter, has indicated.

Nigeria has three per cent of the world’s proven gas reserves, yet has tapped almost none of it, the report said, noting that like most African countries, what has been extracted is mostly sent to Europe, which now wants to import even more to make up for supplies lost to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Italy, for instance, has struck fresh deals to buy gas from Angola and the Republic of Congo, while Germany has been looking to secure supplies from Senegal.

But that’s despite discouraging the use of gas and other fossil fuels around the world in pursuit of global climate goals, a case some European leaders made at the United Nations’ COP26 conference in Glasgow last November.

While African leaders are eager for the millions in revenue that the gas deals are likely to bring in, they’re also calling out the sudden interest in their resources as a double standard that perpetuates the West’s exploitation of the region, the report hinted.

They question why Africa must move away from dirty fuels — thereby delaying access for hundreds of millions of people to electricity — even as its gas is used to keep the lights on in Europe.

“Rich countries have been reluctant to fund pipelines and power plants that would facilitate the use of gas in Africa because of its emissions, yet haven’t delivered on promises to help finance green projects that could be an alternative source of energy.

“Europe’s awkward position was on display at the Group of Seven leaders summit last month. The world’s most advanced economies walked back a climate commitment to halt financing for overseas fossil fuel projects, but indicated that exceptions would likely apply to projects that would allow for more shipments of LNG to their countries.

“In another climb-down, European Union lawmakers recently voted to classify gas and nuclear energy projects within the bloc as ‘green investments’, potentially opening up billions of euros in fresh funding,” it added.

It noted that that approach has irked African leaders who need fuel to lift millions out of poverty.

“We need long-term partnership, not inconsistency and contradiction on green energy policy from the UK and European Union,” it quoted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, as saying in written comments.

“It does not help their energy security, it does not help Nigeria’s economy, and it does not help the environment. It is a hypocrisy that must end,” Buhari added.

“To be sure, sub-Saharan African governments share the blame for their underutilised gas reserves. Few countries have seriously invested in or reformed their power or oil and gas sectors, particularly Nigeria, where the Bonny Island plant has run at least 20 per cent below capacity since 2021 because of pipeline theft and vandalism.

“Many African leaders support boosting gas exports to help their cash-strapped governments, but they also want access to financing that would allow them to harness the fuel’s potential to create domestic natural gas market,” it stressed.

“They cannot just come and say, ‘We need your gas, I’ll buy your gas and we’ll take it to Europe,’” Gabriel Obiang Lima, Energy Minister of Equatorial Guinea,was quoted to have said at a press conference in May. “They need to give something back to us,” he added.

Gas has long been controversial from a climate perspective: it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels but still generates carbon pollution and tends to leak the super-warming greenhouse gas methane.

 Europe’s own stance on the fuel has shifted since the war began. Its top priority now is to buy up as much LNG as it can get its hands on, while countries including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have turned to coal as a backup.

“The whole of the West developed on the back of fossil fuels — even as we speak some Western nations are deciding to bring coal back into their energy mix because of the war.

“So when the world wants to transition to zero carbon emissions, who has to do more?” said Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Energy Minister for Ghana, which has in the past few years made significant oil and gas discoveries. “Is the West saying Africa should remain undeveloped?” he added.

The African continent’s share of historical global emissions would only rise to 3.5 per cent from 3 per cent even if it tapped every molecule of its known gas reserves. Universal energy access on the continent could be achieved by 2030 with $25 billion a year in investment — the equivalent of just 1 per cent of the money pouring into the energy sector globally.

Meanwhile, there’s a dearth of new funding for power plants to burn gas within Africa. Governments and businesses have $100 billion in planned projects, including 35 gigawatts of gas-powered electricity, but can’t find the money to build most of them.

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