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OPINION

Clean energy option fighting a losing battle


-Reuters file photo -Reuters file photo

With the Ukraine war raging, the issue of energy security has now topped the agenda, globally. Since, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Russia is the world's largest oil exporter and Europe keeps warm with its (Russia's) gas, what is going to happen once EU decides to ban all gas and oil imports from Russia?

Switching to alternative sources of gas and oil, though at far higher costs, from the Middle East and the USA, is gong to be the measures in the short-term. And in the long-term, more efficient energy use, increasing the renewable energy's share in the overall energy consumption and moving towards thriftier use of fossil-based energy should be the obvious strategies.

But is that happening the way it should? Is the world on its path to transition to clean energy option for the planet Earth's survival in the face of the impending climate catastrophe?

Already close to seven months have gone since the 26th global climate summit (COP26) ended in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK. One of the decisions of the summit was to keep to the 2015's Paris Agreement of limiting the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial level. And to meet that goal, the global carbon emission (which mostly takes place through burning of fossil fuels) has to be halved by 2030. How far is the global community (some 200 nations attended last year's Glasgow climate summit) from reaching that target?

At this point, we may take note of what, according to CNBC news, former European Union president, now chairman of the Goldman Sachs International, Jose Manuel Barroso, said at a recent event entitled, "The Conflict in Ukraine and Europe's Clean Energy Transition".

He said, "The point is how costly it (reducing dependency on fossil fuels) will be-and so I think there is a risk of backlash. I will even say that there is a risk of having the climate agenda as collateral damage from this war in Ukraine".

In fact, according to the British news magazine nature's Apri 03 report, "Despite the bold promises about cutting ties with Russia, European nations have thus far opted for easy energy: The amount of Russian oil and gas entering Europe has actually increased since the war in Ukraine began." Quoting Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank, it further went, "Europe sent Russia around … US$24 billion for oil and gas in March alone." This is the only response-clearly, one driven by a sense of impending energy crunch-- one can expect from basically fossil-fuel dependent economies.

The advanced industrial economies' scramble for meeting emergency energy need is well-understood. But had the major industrial powers been sincere in their commitment to go by the legally binding Paris climate agreement and taken steps accordingly, a remarkable progress could have been made during the past 7 years towards achieving the set target of cutting global carbon emission by half at the present decade's end.

But that is not to be. The global oil cartel will not allow that to happen. Using the Ukraine war as an excuse, they have raised the oil price in the global market to a 14-year high. As a result, weaker economies, Sri Lanka, for instance, have been facing an existential crisis. Bangladesh is also no exception. A technical committee of the government's energy regulatory authority has recently recommended close to 58 per cent raise in bulk power price. The argument for such increase follows from spike in fossil fuel in the world market. Naturally, to reduce its dependency on imported oil and gas, the country will have to invest more in fossil fuel exploration at home. Evidently, the issues of transition to cleaner energy and that of energy security are at cross-purposes, both locally and globally.

 

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