The newly released REpowerEU International Energy Strategy calls for a reckless course of action regarding decreasing reliance on fossil fuels from Russia by calling on the United States, Canada, Africa and Gulf countries to develop new gas supplies.
The European Union is currently facing a crisis situation when it comes to the war on Ukraine and the interlinked issue of fossil fuel dependency. But rather than pursuing a course that would insulate countries from similar crises in the future, they are choosing to cater to the fossil fuel industry by implementing a short-sighted strategy that will lead to stranded assets and ultimately do nothing to address the systemic and existential issue of fossil fuel dependency.
While it is important to decrease reliance on fossil fuels from Russia at this time, to compensate for this by encouraging other countries, particularly those in the Global South to produce more fossil fuels is a nonsensical strategy. Not only will this fail to bring about the commitments outlined in the strategy to reduce demand for gas by 30% by 2030, it will lock developing countries into fossil fuel reliance for years to come.
The strategy refers to countries including Senegal, Angola and Nigeria as “offering untapped potential”. Such language, accompanied by plans to replace Russian fossil fuels with accelerated gas development in Africa reinforces Europe’s damaging history of imperialist intervention and exploitation in the region.
Africa in particular is already disproportionately facing dire climate impacts and socioeconomic challenges which will be further exacerbated by ramping up fossil fuel production. These plans for gas production in the continent put it in a precarious position, potentially negating efforts being made by African nations towards a much needed just transition to clean energy. In contrast, distributed renewable energy systems would mitigate climate impacts, improve energy security, and provide positive flow on effects to help address interlinked socio-economic issues the region is facing.
Commitments are not enough – we need action. There have been plenty of promises made and sentiments shared about the supposed priority of ramping up clean energy development. This is the time when the European Union has the option to put words into action and enact meaningful change. The onus should be on the EU and the developed world to support the green energy transition in developing nations, which possess renewable energy resources in abundance. Instead, the strategy that has been released unfortunately highlights an unwillingness to make good on these promises and a prioritization of damaging industries over the needs of present and future communities they represent.
At a time where global leaders are faced with immense challenges and a reckoning of the current global order, we cannot ignore that these circumstances present the possibility to protect communities from further challenges and crises that will inevitably arise unless we urgently pivot towards renewable energy based economies.
Anything short of an urgent and comprehensive pivot towards the development of clean energy is a false and inadequate solution to the interlinked crises that fossil fuel dependency exacerbates.