As the Boris Johnson government debates greenlighting a billion-pound loan guarantee for a gas pipeline project in Mozambique, Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa urges UK leaders to reject the proposal—so utterly out of touch with the climate crisis—as financially idiotic, politically myopic, and morally bankrupt.
Scathing in his assessment of the lack of financial probity on the part of the project promoters, Adow notes in a recent op-ed for Thomson Reuters that, even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the gas market was contracting fast and “set to shrink even further, when climate targets start limiting the methane and carbon emissions generated by natural gas.” More recently, “at least 11 other similar projects were cancelled or delayed in April alone by more sensible investors,” he adds.
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He adds that the UK’s now legally binding commitment to net-zero by 2050 will require the country to spend enormously to offset the carbon emissions the pipeline could create (“seven times the annual carbon pollution of France” when combined with two other such gas projects in Mozambique, says Adow).
And the unfortunate recipients of this foolhardy loan will pay an even higher price. “African energy experts are already warning that investing in fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy could be disastrous for the continent’s financial stability,” he says. “If African nations have old-fashioned fossil fuel infrastructure forced upon them, the experts warn, they could be left in crisis as the world moves towards clean energy and no longer needs to buy the energy they’re selling.”
As for job creation, “well, that looks shaky, too,” observes Adow, noting that while the United States “will get nearly 17,000 jobs out of their £5 billion investment,” the UK’s own investment of a cool billion will reap only 2,000 jobs.
“Worst of all,” he adds, “only 2,500 jobs will be available for locals in Mozambique.”
The proposed pipeline does not even match up with broader Whitehall policies, Adow writes. “Why is the Department of Trade investing £1 billion in a project that is predicted to trigger displacement and worsen climate change when the Department for International Development is spending £35 million on ‘strengthening communities’ in the same region?” he asks.
Adow suggests a clean energy solution as an alternative to the pipeline plan. “There’s no need for Britain to double down on failing fossil fuels in Africa when we are blessed with almost endless wind, sun, and geothermal energy,” he writes. “Britain could be using its world-leading expertise to help us harness our abundant renewable energy potential, and build the technology of the future.”
Adow stresses the cruel cynicism underlying the pipeline proposal for Mozambique. Decrying it as a “transparent attempt to restart the world’s sixth richest economy on the backs of people whose lives will be devastated by climate change,” he declares that such moral bankruptcy “diminishes Britain, and it has to be stopped.”