‘Move away from hypocrisy’: Global South demands energy justice

A growing risk of power outages due to sanctions on its main gas supplier Russia forced the European Union to double down on coal for power generation last year, inviting criticism from climate activists

Gathering at the India Energy Week 2023, in Bengaluru, in Karnataka on 6 February 2023ANI

Rich countries should stop throwing up roadblocks to poorer ones trying to secure energy supplies and do more to help them make the green transition, officials from Global South nations told the India Energy Week conference on Tuesday.

The criticism highlights the gaping political fault lines in the battle against climate change and underscores the challenges in drafting effective decarbonisation strategies.

Tanzania’s energy minister January Makamba called for “a move away from hypocrisy” by wealthy nations refusing to finance gas projects, while a senior official from Bangladesh said its energy security was compromised by the higher gas prices caused by Western sanctions on Russia.

Makamba said Japan rejected a proposal last week to finance a gas-fired power plant in southern Tanzania because it was no longer interested in funding such projects.

“Japan is one of the largest importers of LNG (liquefied natural gas). So if gas is good for you to run an economy but it’s bad for me to generate power, there’s a problem,” Makamba told the conference in Bengaluru.

Japan also stopped financing two coal power plant projects in Indonesia and Bangladesh in June, responding to global criticism over its continued support for the polluting fuel.

Western countries literally priced us out of market
Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Energy adviser, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Top global lenders - under pressure from investors, Western governments and campaigners - have squeezed credit lines that finance projects based on fossil fuels in a bid to achieve net-zero emissions across their financing portfolios.

Government officials in some countries and industry officials call this discriminatory.

“The choices for me to be able to increase (energy) access and consumption cannot be impaired by politics that have nothing to do with me,” Makamba said.

Priced Out

Bir Bikram Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the energy adviser to the prime minister of Bangladesh, said a surge in gas prices after sweeping sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine made LNG inaccessible for the south Asian country.

“There were ships floating around Western Europe carrying gas, and other countries were not able to buy because of the price,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

Bangladesh, which counts on natural gas for over two-thirds of its power generation, was one of the worst hit by the surge in LNG prices. Major cities in Bangladesh were forced to resort to hours of power cuts during the second half of 2022, disrupting commercial and industrial activity.

Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury
File photo

“Western countries literally priced us out of market,” Chowdhury said.

Zimbabwe, where electricity shortages were among the key reasons for slower economic growth in 2022, is still far from transitioning from traditional sources of power, its deputy energy minister Magna Mudyiwa said.

“We are a growing economy, plenty of mining is going on, plenty of agriculture is going on. We still need some more electricity in Zimbabwe. And then we can talk about transitioning from what we have to green energy,” she said.

India, the world’s second largest consumer, importer and producer of coal, has often defended high use of the polluting fuel, saying its per capita emissions were lower than richer nations and it needed a cheap source of energy to ensure supplies.

A growing risk of power outages due to sanctions on its main gas supplier Russia forced the European Union to double down on coal for power generation last year, inviting criticism from climate activists.

A worker rides a bicycle at the Bharat Petroleum Corporation refinery in Mumbai, on 24 April, 2008

Sultan al-Jaber, the United Arab Emirates’ climate envoy and designated COP28 president, said “the Global South, where almost 800 million people have no electricity,” should be empowered in “an inclusive energy transition.”

“The energy transition has the potential to generate the greatest leap in economic prosperity since the first industrial revolution. But it must be fair,” Jaber said.

“When it comes to the Global South, they have seen little justice so far.”