Over 100 civil society groups and figureheads have delivered a collective letter to Heads of State in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and to the European Commission. In the letter, the signatories acknowledged that the fossil fuel energy crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is directly affecting European households and workers, especially the most vulnerable and that the governments need to respond to this.
At the same time, they highlight that, for the African continent, any new gas developments would exacerbate climate impacts in the region least responsible for the crisis, and exacerbate the devastating impacts that gas extraction has on livelihoods, public health, human rights and biodiversity.
The signatories stand in solidarity with their African allies who are demanding an end to gas on their continent through a campaign called “Don’t Gas Africa”. They are particularly concerned that Europe’s dash for gas in the continent would undermine Africa’s development by locking it into fossil fuel conflicts and debt to cover export-oriented gas production and the costs of these stranded assets. Investments in gas, they argue, also distracts from the greater priority to expand access to clean and reliable electricity for the more than 570 million people on the continent who lack access to energy.
Luisa Neubauer, Fridays for Future Germany, said: “Scholz wanted to be a climate chancellor, instead he has turned into a fossil chancellor. We are witnessing him pushing for more fossil extraction from African countries like Senegal. Our addiction to fossil fuels and exploitation of the African continent is the root cause of the climate and cost of living crisis. Instead of fueling the fires, Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are asked to shift all investments towards renewables.”
The letter responds to efforts by European governments to not only secure new gas from the global market, but to proactively invest in new upstream and midstream gas infrastructure. Germany in particular has led the push for this. In May 2022, Scholz visited Senegal to pursue new projects there.
In October 2022, Scholz’s chief of staff said Germany should finance exploration of gas fields, and Germany made attempts at the European Council to get EU states to support gas extraction. In September, EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, encouraged the Mozambique government to accelerate a gas programme which has led to the displacement of thousands and the fuelling of violent insurgency and conflict.”
Marie Toussaint, French Member of the European Parliament, said: “The rush of European investment into African fossil resources is of great concern. The French multinational Total is leading the way in exploiting African resources, whether through the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project in Uganda, or the opening of offshore operations in South Africa. The funds that finance these projects are funds that do not go to support the energy transition of African countries.
“The European Union must not only resolutely commit to the creation of an international financial mechanism for loss and damage, but also create green partnerships to support the African transition to sustainable, low-cost energy sources that will guarantee a real share of the benefits for all and their long-term energy independence: renewable energy.”
Lili Fuhr, Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “Europe isn’t facing an energy crisis – it is facing a fossil fuel crisis. The only way out is to break the addiction to oil and gas by scaling up renewables and reducing fossil fuel demand. And a key place to start is reducing oil and gas use for polluting industries. In 2020, nearly 15% of the final gas and 14% of the final oil consumption in the EU were used to manufacture petrochemicals for plastics and fertilisers.
“Instead of pursuing a neocolonialist hunt for new sources of fossil fuels in Africa and elsewhere, EU leaders should confront the problem head-on by reducing the production of plastics and fertilisers, beginning with unnecessary single-use plastic packaging. The current approach will only lock Africa and Europe into a fossil future and more climate chaos.”
The letter comes just as the International Energy Agency has released its 2022 World Energy Outlook report, which states: “No one should imagine that Russia’s invasion [of Ukraine] can justify a wave of new oil and gas infrastructure in a world that wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050.” The report aligns with previous findings that a net zero trajectory means no expansion of new gas or oil fields anywhere in the world, and that instead major investments in renewable energy are sorely needed.
It also comes amid growing civil society resistance on both continents to the expansion of European fossil fuel production. African civil society is particularly active in opposing the efforts of European nations through its Don’t Gas Africa campaign, which calls for an end to fossil fuel-induced energy apartheid and international support for the development of cost-effective, clean, people-owned renewable energy to end energy exclusion and meet the needs of people and communities across the continent.
Lorraine Chiponda, Facilitator, Don’t Gas Africa: “The looming expansion of fossil fuels and gas in Africa and across the world ignores the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels and takes away the focus and resources meant to propel a transition towards clean energy. The push for gas is not directed by the needs of 600 million people in Africa living with energy poverty nor Africa’s development needs.
“Africa needs a systems change that ushers in a just transition that delivers regenerative economies for people, decentralises energy systems to reach marginal populations and provides clean energy for all and finally allows for all to thrive in a healthy clean environment.”
The signatories and backing organisations urge European leadership to grasp this historic moment and act as true climate leader by:
- Immediately cease any deals to expand gas production and infrastructure in Africa, reaffirm the COP26 Glasgow Statement to halt investment in new gas and oil, and apply it to projects not yet developed
- Introduce rapid gas demand reduction measures in Europe that apply to energy and industrial processes (for example, reducing plastics production would cut gas consumption close to the volumes that could feasibly come from reserves in African countries), and
- Invest in large scale rollout of renewable energy in partnership with African countries and democratic institutions to support energy access and enable governments to develop zero carbon industrial strategies that do not entrench fossil fuel development.