Business Daily Media

.

Global energy crisis looms over UN climate summit – while some countries race to renewables, others plan more natural gas production, but it comes with risks

  • Written by Robert Brecha, Professor of Sustainability, University of Dayton
Global energy crisis looms over UN climate summit – while some countries race to renewables, others plan more natural gas production, but it comes with risks

Russia’s war on Ukraine has cast a shadow over this year’s United Nations climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where officials from around the world are discussing the costs of climate change and how to cut emissions that remain near record highs[1].

The war has dramatically disrupted energy markets the world over, leaving many countries vulnerable to price spikes amid supply shortages.

Europe, worried about keeping the heat on through winter, is outbidding poor countries for natural gas, even paying premiums to reroute tanker ships[2] after Russia cut off most of its usual natural gas supply. Some countries are restarting coal-fired power plants[3]. Others are looking for ways to expand fossil fuel production, including new projects in Africa[4].

These actions are a long way from the countries’ pledges just a year ago to rein in fossil fuels[5], and they’re likely to further increase greenhouse gas emissions, at least temporarily.

But will the war and the economic turmoil prevent the world from meeting the Paris climate agreement’s long-term goals[6]?

Kerry leans toward Scholz and raises a finger as if to point while seated during the UN climate conference.
U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry speaks with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, on Nov. 7, 2022, in Egypt. Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images[7]

There are reasons to believe that this may not be the case.

The answer depends in part on how wealthy countries respond to a focus of this year’s climate conference: fulfilling their pledges in the Paris Agreement to provide support for low- and middle-income countries to build clean energy systems.

Europe speeds up clean energy plans

A key lesson many countries are taking away from the ongoing energy crisis is that, if anything, the transition to renewable energy[8] must be pushed forward faster.

I work with countries as they update national climate pledges[9] and have been involved in evaluating the compatibility of global emissions reduction scenarios[10] with the Paris Agreement. I see the energy crisis affecting countries’ plans in different ways.

About 80% of the world’s energy[11] is still from fossil sources. Global trade[12] in coal, oil and natural gas has meant that even countries with their own energy supplies have felt some of the pain of exorbitant prices[13]. In the U.S., for example, natural gas and electricity prices are higher than normal because they are increasingly tied to international markets, and the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter[14] of liquefied natural gas.

The shortage has led to a scramble to find fossil fuel suppliers in the short term. European countries have offered to help African countries produce more natural gas[15] and have courted authoritarian regimes[16]. The Biden administration is urging companies to extract more oil and gas[17], has tried to pressure Saudi Arabia[18] to produce more oil, and considered lifting sanctions against Venezuela[19].

However, Europe also has a growing renewable energy supply[20] that has helped cushion some of the impact[21]. A quarter of the European Union’s electricity comes from solar and wind, avoiding billions of euros[22] in fossil fuel costs. Globally, investments in the clean energy transition increased[23] by about 16% in 2022, the International Energy Agency estimates.

Developing countries face complex challenges

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call to accelerate the clean energy transition in wealthier countries, the situation is much more complex in developing countries.

Low-income countries are being hit hard by the impact of Russia’s war[24], not only by high energy costs, but also by decreases in grain[25] and cooking oil[26] exports. The more these countries are dependent on foreign oil and gas imports for their energy supply, the more they will be exposed to global market gyrations.

Renewable energy can reduce some of that exposure.

The costs of solar and wind energy have dropped dramatically in the last decade[27] and now represent the cheapest sources of energy in most regions. But advances in expanding access to clean electricity[28] have been set back by the war. Borrowing costs can also be a barrier[29] for low-income countries, and those costs will increase as countries raise interest rates to fight inflation.

As part of the Paris Agreement, wealthy countries were supposed to make good on promises to make US$100 billion per year available for climate finance[30], but the actual amounts provided have fallen short[31].

To achieve the Paris Agreement targets, coal, oil and natural gas consumption must decrease dramatically[32] in the next decade or two. International cooperation will be necessary to help poorer countries expand energy access and transition to low-emissions development pathways[33].

Africa’s fossil fuels and stranded asset risks

A number of developing countries have their own fossil fuel resources, and some in Africa have been calling for increasing production[34], although not without pushback[35].

Without a strong alternative within local contexts for sustainable energy resources[36], and with wealthy countries scrambling for fossil fuels, developing countries will exploit fossil resources – just as the wealthiest countries have done for over a century. For example, Tanzania’s energy minister[37], January Makamba, told Bloomberg during the U.N. climate conference that his country expects to sign agreements with Shell and other oil majors for a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

While this intersection of interests could boost some developing countries[38], it can also set up future challenges.

Encouraging the construction of new fossil-fuel infrastructure in Africa – presumably to be earmarked for Europe in the short to medium term – may help ameliorate some near-term supply shortages, but how long will those customers need the fuel[39]? And how much of that income will benefit the people[40] of those countries?

The IEA sees natural gas demand plateauing[41] by 2030 and oil and coal demand falling, even without more ambitious climate policies. Any infrastructure built today[42] for short-term supplies risks becoming a stranded asset[43], worthless in a low-emissions world[44].

Layer chart shows natural gas use leveling off in the 2020s while coal and oil demand fall.
The International Energy Agency’s projections show natural gas demand plateauing soon. IEA 2022, CC BY[45][46]

Encouraging developing countries to take on debt risk to invest in fossil fuel extraction for which the world will have no use would potentially do these countries a great disservice, taking advantage of them for short-term gain.

The world has made progress on emissions in recent years, and the worst warming projections from a decade ago seem to be highly unlikely[47] now. But every tenth of a degree[48] has an impact, and the current “business-as-usual” path still leads the planet toward[49] warming levels with climate change costs that are hard to contemplate, especially for the most vulnerable countries. The outcomes from the climate conference will give an indication of whether the global community is willing to accelerate the transition.

References

  1. ^ remain near record highs (theconversation.com)
  2. ^ reroute tanker ships (energiesnet.com)
  3. ^ restarting coal-fired power plants (www.npr.org)
  4. ^ new projects in Africa (www.bloomberg.com)
  5. ^ pledges just a year ago to rein in fossil fuels (www.un.org)
  6. ^ long-term goals (unfccc.int)
  7. ^ Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)
  8. ^ transition to renewable energy (www.iea.org)
  9. ^ national climate pledges (unfccc.int)
  10. ^ compatibility of global emissions reduction scenarios (doi.org)
  11. ^ 80% of the world’s energy (www.iea.org)
  12. ^ Global trade (unctad.org)
  13. ^ exorbitant prices (www.iea.org)
  14. ^ world’s largest exporter (www.eia.gov)
  15. ^ produce more natural gas (www.dw.com)
  16. ^ courted authoritarian regimes (www.dw.com)
  17. ^ urging companies to extract more oil and gas (www.npr.org)
  18. ^ pressure Saudi Arabia (www.aljazeera.com)
  19. ^ lifting sanctions against Venezuela (www.nytimes.com)
  20. ^ renewable energy supply (ec.europa.eu)
  21. ^ cushion some of the impact (ember-climate.org)
  22. ^ avoiding billions of euros (ember-climate.org)
  23. ^ investments in the clean energy transition increased (www.iea.org)
  24. ^ hit hard by the impact of Russia’s war (www.undp.org)
  25. ^ grain (www.aljazeera.com)
  26. ^ cooking oil (www.ers.usda.gov)
  27. ^ dropped dramatically in the last decade (ourworldindata.org)
  28. ^ advances in expanding access to clean electricity (www.iea.org)
  29. ^ Borrowing costs can also be a barrier (www.iea.org)
  30. ^ available for climate finance (doi.org)
  31. ^ fallen short (www.oxfam.org)
  32. ^ coal, oil and natural gas consumption must decrease dramatically (doi.org)
  33. ^ low-emissions development pathways (unfccc.int)
  34. ^ increasing production (www.weforum.org)
  35. ^ pushback (www.powershiftafrica.org)
  36. ^ within local contexts for sustainable energy resources (www.nature.com)
  37. ^ Tanzania’s energy minister (www.bloomberg.com)
  38. ^ boost some developing countries (www.wsj.com)
  39. ^ how long will those customers need the fuel (www.mckinsey.com)
  40. ^ how much of that income will benefit the people (www.hrw.org)
  41. ^ natural gas demand plateauing (www.iea.org)
  42. ^ infrastructure built today (climateactiontracker.org)
  43. ^ stranded asset (www.imf.org)
  44. ^ a low-emissions world (doi.org)
  45. ^ IEA 2022 (www.iea.org)
  46. ^ CC BY (creativecommons.org)
  47. ^ highly unlikely (doi.org)
  48. ^ every tenth of a degree (www.carbonbrief.org)
  49. ^ leads the planet toward (climateactiontracker.org)

Read more https://theconversation.com/global-energy-crisis-looms-over-un-climate-summit-while-some-countries-race-to-renewables-others-plan-more-natural-gas-production-but-it-comes-with-risks-193944

Business Reports

Deputy appoints Silvija Martincevic as global CEO

Deputy appoints new global CEO Silvija Martincevic after reaching $100M in annual recurring revenue Company prepares for its next phase of growth and focuses on scaling internationally Deputy, the shift management plat...

Why you need an Angel Investor as a female founder and where to find one

As a woman founder who grew a business for 10 years before selling it to investors, I know firsthand the importance of finding your ‘Angel’ to take your business to the next level. Angel investors are so important in the sta...

Rakuten Advertising Names Neil Cao as Commercial Director of China

The new Commercial Director will lead Rakuten Advertising’s business and commercial strategies in the country Australia, February 8, 2023: Performance advertising company Rakuten Advertising today announced the appointme...