There has been a significant increase in the consumption and production of fossil fuels in the past year by developed countries, even as they continue to press developing countries to move away from the same resources.
“Such double standards are incompatible with climate equity and justice,” said the ministers of the Basic (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) group of negotiators in a joint statement at the United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
In South Africa, Gwede Mantashe, the minister of mineral resources and energy, has at various energy-related events in the latter half of 2022 told members of the media that Germany, for example, had increased its imports of South African coal “eightfold” this year.
Both Mantashe and the Basic ministers, however, chose to omit certain contextually relevant information.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently noted that even though the energy crisis — sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — had indeed “propped up global coal demand in 2022 by making natural gas far more expensive”, the relatively small increase in coal emissions had been “considerably outweighed by the expansion of renewables.
“Coal consumption in the European Union is expected to rise by 7% in 2022 on top of last year’s 14% jump. This is being driven by demand from the electricity sector where coal is increasingly being used to replace gas, which is in short supply and has experienced huge price spikes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Several EU countries are extending the life of coal plants scheduled for closure, reopening closed plants or raising caps on their operating hours to reduce gas consumption. However, Europe only accounts for about 5% of global coal consumption,” the agency said.
The IEA executive director, Fatih Birol, noted that the encouraging news is that “solar and wind are filling much of the gap, with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary”.
Among the key findings of the World Energy Outlook 2022 report are that: “The crisis provides a short-term boost to demand for oil and coal as consumers scramble for alternatives to high-priced gas. But the lasting gains from the crisis accrue to low-emissions sources, mainly renewables, but also nuclear in some cases, alongside faster progress with efficiency and electrification, e.g. electric vehicles.”
According to the report, the EU’s CO2 emissions are on course to decline this year despite an increase in coal emissions. The rise in European coal use is “expected to be temporary”, with a “strong pipeline of new renewable projects forecast to add around 50 gigawatts of capacity in 2023”. These additions would “generate more electricity than the expected increase in coal-fired power generation in the EU in 2022”, the agency said.
On Tuesday in Egypt, the Basic meeting was chaired by Barbara Creecy, the minister of forestry, fisheries and the environment. It was attended by Joaquim Leite and Bhupender Yadav, Creecy’s Brazilian and Indian counterparts, respectively, as well as Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, and Zhao Yingmin, China’s vice-minister of ecology and environment.
Ministers share progress
Not without their own issues, such as rampant deforestation and being among the highest users of coal in the world, the ministers shared some of the progress made in their countries.
They noted that Brazil had this year increased its mitigation ambition with a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, based on 2005 levels. The South American heavyweight also announced strategic measures for its 2050 climate neutrality commitment, including zero illegal deforestation by 2028 as well as restoring and reforesting 18 million hectares of forests by 2030.
In South Africa, a framework to underpin its move from coal to cleaner sources of electricity generation as well as an investment “that outlines the enormous scale and nature of investments needed to achieve its decarbonisation goals over the next five years” was developed. The country has also submitted its Climate Change Bill before Parliament.
In India, “Mission Life” was launched, which is aimed at creating “a global mass movement for sustainable lifestyles and a paradigm shift from mindless and destructive consumption to mindful and deliberate utilisation”.
The Indian minister noted that the country had submitted its Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy towards net zero by 2070 at COP27. This was preceded by the submission of its updated and enhanced nationally determined contributions in August this year. India also noted that the country now has the world’s fourth-largest installed capacity of renewable energy.
The Chinese had many achievements to share, including that the country’s carbon intensity last year dropped by 3.8% and 50.8% compared with 2020 and 2005. They noted how nearly a third of the total global capacity of “non-fossil energy power generation” is in China, with 1,120GW. It also provides about 50% of the global wind power equipment and 80% of the global solar power generation equipment, while the country has more than 50% of all “new-energy” vehicles in the world on its roads.
In their joint statement, the Basic ministers said: “Developing countries require predictable and appropriate support, including climate finance at the necessary scope, scale and speed, and access to technology and markets to ensure and enable their sustainable development.
“Ministers are concerned that climate finance provided by developed countries continues to fall short of the $100-billion per year commitment, as it has every year since the goal was set in 2009, and despite the deep regret expressed at COP26 last year.
“This is despite the $100-billion being only a tiny fraction of the financing which will be necessary for an economy-wide transformation and to meet the needs and priorities of developing countries. Developing countries, and especially the Basic countries, have to channel many times this amount of financing from their domestic resources or from commercial loans, and developing countries cannot afford to transform their economies without assistance.”
They emphasised: “Trust amongst parties is central to the success of the multilateral process and climate change can only be successfully addressed through a collective multilateral response.”