Europe’s rush to buy Africa’s natural gas draws cries of hypocrisy

2022-07-11 16:11:10
Europe’s rush to buy Africa’s natural gas draws cries of hypocrisy

Most of liquefied natural gas produced in Nigeria last year was shipped out of the West African country, with Spain, France and Portugal the biggest buyers, Bloomberg said in a report.

Just 17 miles away in the town of Bodo, near the tip of Nigeria’s Bonny Island, residents still use black-market kerosene and diesel to light wood stoves and power electricity generators.

“The gas here goes to Bonny and Europe to power homes and industries but we have no benefits from it,” Pius Dimkpa, chairman of Bodo’s local community development committee, told Bloomberg. “Nothing comes to us.”

Nigeria has 3% of the world's proven gas reserves, yet has tapped almost none of it. 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 Russia’s war with Ukraine.

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

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 climbdown, 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.

That approach has irked African leaders who need fuel, any 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,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said 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.”


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