There are more strident calls being made to reduce global warming and the catastrophic destruction it could wreak on the planet and human life if left unchecked. That sense of urgency has intensified with the breakout of devastating forest fires in the US and elsewhere this summer.
Then there were the floods - in Germany alone, 141 people were killed due when water levels surged and leading to damages that will cost insurers 5 billion euros in claims. The government has also allocated more than 50 billion euros to compensate those affected and help pay for reconstruction. Although most countries have joined the Paris Climate Agreement, it has been challenging for many to commit to its provisions.
Developing countries, for example, cannot tap clean energy sources due to a lack of funding, while developed countries suffer from major imbalances due to the costs associated with building renewable energy facilities. Thankfully, what we are seeing are no more attempts being made by some to blame any particular country for the sorry state on climate change. What is needed is constructive cooperation to reduce pollution, which has become such a pressing need to preserve the environment and resources for future generations.
The developed countries, especially the US, blame oil-producing countries in the OPEC+ group. However, this stance is largely incomprehensible and contradictory, as is the case with current American policies. Let’s take the US position on oil and climate change. At the beginning of the Joe Biden presidency, the American administration criticized OPEC+ countries for harmful carbon emissions. It also took strict measures that contributed to the closure of many shale oil deposits in the US, which contributed to increasing US oil imports.
But then Reuters reported few days ago about Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser, when he said: “The increases in OPEC+ oil production are not enough.” Not just Sullivan, the US President also called on OPEC+ to increase production.
The first response to these comments was from Saudi officials, who said that they were “confused by the Biden administration’s positions, which is seeking to reduce oil consumption, while the OPEC+ countries are calling for more oil to be pumped.”
In fact, it is not only Saudis who are confused by the American positions, but all oil-producing countries. It is as yet unknown whether the confused American administration wants to reduce or increase production…
This confusion is caused by not being objective when assessing the relation between oil and the climate, which has acquired a populist dimension to win votes in elections, especially in the US. Yes, climate change is an issue that concerns all countries and peoples. It has received widespread support as evidenced by most OPEC+ countries, including the GCC, signing up to the Paris Climate Agreement.
However, there are obstacles that must be addressed, and there are also requirements without which it is impossible to move to a world that is less polluted and more environmentally stable. The first of these lies in the weakness of coordination between the countries producing and consuming energy. At a time when the US is demanding an increase in oil production, its relationship with the two largest oil countries, namely Saudi Arabia and Russia, is not in good shape.
The clean and renewable energy infrastructure suffers from a great shortage, and is currently unable to meet global consumption needs, and its production costs are high. Therefore it is outside the scope of many countries.
This means that while populist positions seek to bring about a fundamental change in the energy balance by abandoning traditional sources, there can be no immediate replacement from renewable energy. This means the status quo will remain, which requires dumping slogans and deepening cooperation among countries to make a real shift to preserve the environment.
-- The writer is a specialist in energy and Gulf economic affairs.