Industrial economies responsible for climate crisis

  • OPEC demands energy security for emerging economies

Sopuruchi Onwuka

American and European countries currently at the forefront of the prevailing global climate action campaigns are actually the key culprits of global warming, historically puffing millions of tons of fumes into the air for 170 years!

And the role of the developed and industrial nations in driving energy transition away from fossil fuels and also shutting funding windows against petroleum projects angers the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which fights energy poverty in developing countries.

Secreatry General of OPEC and coordinator of OPEC+ cooperation, Dr. Mohammed Barkindo

The Oracle Today reports that mainly industrial Europe and America have set targets for migration of their energy sources for transportation and industry from petroleum fuels to other options that guarantee little of no emissions into the environment.

Data on historical emission by industrial countries of the world compiled by Carbon Brief show that total carbon dioxide emitted since the start of the industrial revolution indict countries that currently drive energy transition policy for the prevailing climate crisis.

The data which include emissions from the destruction of forests and other changes in land use alongside the burning of fossil fuels significantly alters earlier country emissions responsibility figures published in 2019.

A comprehensive analysis of the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted since the start of the industrial revolution shows that industrial China, Russia, United States and its European allies have the greatest historical responsibility for the climate crisis.

The data published Tuesday by Carbon Brief showed that the United States is responsible for the largest share of carbon dioxide emissions since 1850 through to the present day, pumping significant 509 gigatons of carbon dioxide or some 20 percent of the global total in the period.

China follows with 11 percent, Russia accounts for 7.0 percent, Brazil 5.0 percent and Indonesia 4.0 percent. Germany and the U.K. accounted for 4.0  percent and 3.0  percent of the global total respectively.

The figure for European countries, according to the report, could hold significant upside when historical emissions include overseas emissions under colonial rule.

In the report, Carbon Brief also indicated that the world has now met some 85 percent of the carbon dioxide budget that would give a 50 percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the more aspirational goal of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

The research comes less than a month before the start of a critically important U.N. climate summit, known as COP26, and is yet another example of the immense pressure on heavily polluting countries to drastically and urgently reduce their emissions to meet the demands of the climate emergency.

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The countries indicted in the report however comprise mainly of those laundering their reputation with stringent climate action targets that point at petroleum industry as the global environmental villain. These countries are also still the largest consumers of dirty fuels including coal and petroleum.

In driving harsh clean energy policies, the industrialized nations are also pushing their energy companies that plundered petroleum resources across the world for home consumption to diversify from coal, oil and gas. They have also set deadlines for automobile industries in their domains to ditch internal combustion engine for electric vehicles before 2040.

The industrialized nations mainly in Europe and the United States demand compliance to the Paris Agreement on climate action which requires acute reduction in emissions that contribute to global warming and reduce the rate below 1.5 degrees centigrade.

The measures which bind multilateral funding agencies, international energy companies, producing countries and environmental activists in a climate agenda becomes stringent as rising sea levels, record heat waves, flooding and desertification hit vulnerable locations across the globe in recent years.

Energy transition and associated policy levers across the globe are not good news for emerging economies which are yet to attain energy security or develop the requisite capacity for energy diversification.

Carbon Brief notes that the historical responsibility for climate change “is at the heart of debates over climate justice.” This is because the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide emitted since 1850 is closely tied to the 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming that has already occurred.

Low-income nations that are struggling to protect themselves against climate breakdown have repeatedly urged countries that grew rich on fossil fuels to offer financial assistance, saying they are now burdened with the greatest responsibility to act.

Secretary General of OPEC, Dr Mohammed Barkindo, told The Oracle Today that emerging economies in Africa and Asia face the double tragedy of climate impact and energy poverty, making economic and social development very difficult for them under the prevailing energy transition.

He said that OPEC and other oil producing countries do  not deny the prevailing global environmental crisis, adding that the impact are even harder in emerging economies than in developed countries.

He made it clear that countries that build their economies with fossil energy, otherwise termed historical polluters have greater responsibility in laying out resources global climate action.

He pointed out that the challenge is not to demonize the petroleum industry, saying that there are also several other sources of emission outside fossil fuels. He also made it clear that the biggest global climate agenda must prioritize financial assistance from industrialized rich nations to poor countries to enable them deploy measures.

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He declared there is no environmental denial in OPEC.

“For us in OPEC, we live it, not theory, but in also all our member countries, especially in Nigeria. Day-in-day-out we see the impact of climate change either in the desertification in the North, soil erosions in the East, rainy season in coastal areas, irregular rainfalls affecting agriculture, or global warming. And it is literally the same in almost all of our member countries.

“So, for us, it’s not theory, it’s practically limited. But the challenge is how we raise finance to address the greenhouse gas that is emitted by several sources of energy and their uses in order to decarbonize the industries and the world,” he argued.

He said the climate action measures must be scientific and sustainable; warning that rising global population and associated projections in energy demand means that fossil fuel would remain significantly in the mix for the long term.

Dr Barkindo stated that energy transition is grossly misinterpreted in the prevailing hype, saying that it is not necessarily a transition for one set of energy sources to another.

“According to our World Oil Outlook up to 2045, all sources of energy will be required in order to meet not only current but future demands for energy; and oil and gas, for your information, will account for over 50 per cent of the global energy mix by 2045. But we are also conscious of the fact that these sources, alone, will not be sufficient to meet the thirst for energy,” he stressed.

Dr Barkindo made it clear that rising global population and consequent demand projection for energy might worsen energy poverty in developing countries and exacerbate economic gloom and instability if climate action is managed efficiently to guarantee energy security.

“Right now in the developing countries including here in Nigeria, climate change and energy poverty are two sides of the same coin. Whatever we do here, we must comprehensively address these two challenges.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, our numbers showed that over 600 million people have no access to electricity. In Africa, almost 900 million people have no access to clean cooking fuel. So, we are facing abject energy poverty; and yet, we are the worst affected by climate change. Therefore, we have every reason to join the rest of the world in finding inclusive sustainable solutions to climate change. However, we cannot do that at the expense of energy poverty.”

Dr Barkindo pointed out that the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-7) of the United Nations makes it a right for everybody to have access to affordable and sustainable energy.

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U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres also made it clear that high-income nations must take the lead in climate action; while Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg recently raised the issue of historical responsibility.

Citing Carbon Brief’s 2019 rankings, in which the U.S. was found to be the biggest cumulative polluter of carbon dioxide emissions from 1750, Thunberg said via Twitter that “being on the list among the biggest historical emitters certainly doesn’t speak to your advantage as ‘climate leader.'”

U.S. President Joe Biden told the U.N. General Assembly last month that he would work with Congress to double funds by 2024 to $11.4 trillion to help low-income nations deal with the climate crisis.

The move was welcomed by some as a means to helping achieve a global goal set more than a decade ago of $100 billion annually to support climate action in low-income nations by 2020. Critics say Biden’s pledge still falls significantly short of what the U.S. owes.

The world’s leading climate scientists delivered their starkest warning yet about the deepening climate crisis on Aug. 9, suggesting that limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius would be beyond reach in the next two decades without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis published by Carbon Brief, which is funded by the European Climate Foundation, assessed the figures in relation to population size, with countries like China and India falling down the rankings. The research group assessed a country’s cumulative emissions in two different ways, providing significantly different results.

One approach assesses a country’s climate emissions each year and divides it by the number of people living in the country at that time, which the report notes would implicitly assign responsibility for the past to those alive today. The second scenario takes a country’s per-capita emissions in each year and adds them up over time, giving equal weight to the populations of the past and the present day.

In the first example, Canada, the U.S. and Estonia, respectively, represent the top three countries for cumulative emissions from 1850 through to 2021. New Zealand, Canada and Australia make up the top three in the second approach, relating to cumulative per-capita emissions.

When accounting for the top 20 countries’ cumulative emissions relative to population size, several of the top 10 for cumulative emissions overall are notable in their absence, including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia.

These four nations account for 42 percent of the world’s population, the analysis says, but just 23 percent of cumulative emissions from 1850 to 2021.

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