Climate alarm as nations divert attention to economic revivalFriday March 24 2023
A UN report this week sounded an alarm that “ the climate time-bomb is ticking” as international climate goals are missed.
This statement correctly reflects recent and ongoing climate-related disasters (droughts, heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, snowstorms etc.) that continue to impact every corner of the world, including here in Kenya.
The UN alarm contrasts the buoyant mood with which the world leadership concluded the 2021 Glasgow COP26 forum when they pledged to accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, global oil and gas supply chains were significantly disrupted, resulting in energy price spikes and widespread inflation across the world.
Read: How climate change is shaping financial markets
All of a sudden climate plans and pledges were temporarily set aside as nations prioritised economic stability and energy security.
Climate politics and activism similarly subsided, which is the case today. Oil and gas-producing countries and companies hurriedly invested in alternative sources of oil and gas to fix gaps created by the war in Ukraine.
Governments temporarily relaxed previously agreed climate policies and goals to address runaway energy prices.
On their part, oil companies selectively committed more investment in oil and gas production in selected low-cost, fast-turnaround fields.
Specifically, investments in natural gas production, liquefaction and regasification infrastructure were fast-tracked to replace piped gas from Russia to Europe.
In Africa, Namibia has just discovered promising offshore oil resources which are attracting capital participation from multinationals.
In Uganda, abated climate activism has permitted progress towards oil production and commercialization.
Mozambique has commenced LNG ( liquefied natural gas ) exports from offshore fields, as Tanzania fast-tracks preparations for LNG infrastructure.
On the Caribbean seas increased oil exploration and production continue, as the USA steps up shale oil production.
How to reconcile the UN-proclaimed climate threats with a resumed appetite for oil and gas investments is an urgent problem.
It is important that world leaders and fossil fuel stakeholders and investors re-prioritise the climate agenda for the wider common interest of humanity's survival.
We should ensure that when global economies and energy supplies stabilise, we shall have a livable world. World leaders should, sooner than later, renew their focus on the global climate agenda.
On the positive side, green renewable technology developments and investments have maintained their momentum, giving an assurance that the energy transition is very much on course despite geopolitical disruptions.
Read: Climate change: Time to focus on sustainable cities
Nuclear energy is making a remarkable comeback, and green hydrogen is finding its place, as electric mobility picks up the pace.