'The exact opposite of what we need': G20's liquefied natural gas subsidies killing hope for livable future

'The exact opposite of what we need': G20's liquefied natural gas subsidies killing hope for livable future
GARDEN CITY, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Flared natural gas is burned off at Apache Corporations operations at the Deadwood natural gas plant in the Permian Basin on February 5, 2015 in Garden City, Texas. Apache sends an estimated 50-52 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to this plant. As crude oil prices have fallen nearly 60 percent globally, many American communities that became dependent on oil revenue are preparing for hard times. Texas, which benefited from hydraulic fracturing and the shale drilling revolution, tripled its production of oil in the last five years. The Texan economy saw hundreds of billions of dollars come into the state before the global plunge in prices. Across the state drilling budgets are being slashed and companies are notifying workers of upcoming layoffs. According to federal labor statistics, around 300,000 people work in the Texas oil and gas industry, 50 percent more than four years ago. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

Despite pledging to take action on the climate emergency, including by ending international fossil fuel financing, Group of 20 governments continue to pour billions of dollars into gas infrastructure expansion, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

"Oil Change International (OCI) finds that G20 government institutions were involved in financing 82% of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal capacity built from 2012-22," states the group's new report, highlighting at least $78 billion in public financing.

"Of the $234.6 billion total capital expenditure for the LNG export terminals built in the last decade, loans from international public finance institutions made up at least 24% of the total ($55.2 billion)," the report explains. "On top of this, these institutions provided $22.4 billion in equity investments and loan guarantees to insure against potential losses for other financiers."

The 17 completed projects included in the analysis have locked 928 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year, comparable to "the annual emissions of 423 coal-fired power plants, nearly two times the annual emissions of Canada, or over three times the annual emissions of France."

OCI's briefing warns that another dozen projects expected to be completed by 2026 would generate an additional 654 megatonnes of yearly planet-heating pollution, or about the annual emissions of Germany—as climate scientists and energy experts emphasize the need to swiftly end the world's fossil fuel era.

"These shocking figures show that laggard countries need to catch up with leading governments and urgently change course to stop pumping taxpayers' money into gas projects that are wrecking our climate, leave the energy crisis unsolved, and will end up as stranded assets," asserted OCI public finance strategist Adam McGibbon.

At $39.7 billion, Japan leads the world in public financing for LNG export capacity 2012-26, followed by China ($25.4 billion) and the United States ($15.5 billion). Rounding out the top 10 "worst offenders" are South Korea, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

During the COP26 climate summit in Scotland two years ago, the United States, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands were among the 39 countries and institutions that signed the Glasgow Statement, agreeing to cut off financing for new international fossil fuel projects by the end of last year and instead invest in clean energy.

Japan initially held out, but under pressure from its fellow Group of Seven countries, ultimately agreed to the pledge last May. However, in July, at the urging of Germany and Italy, the G7 watered down its members' commitments specifically on gas.

With Japan set to host a G7 summit in Hiroshima next month, the nation's "leadership in the expansion of LNG development is the exact opposite of what we need," OCI campaigner Makiko Arima declared Wednesday. "Japan needs to take last year's G7 commitment to end public finance for fossil fuels seriously and stop funding gas projects."

"There is no time for so-called transition fuels, when fossil fuel dependency is exacerbating the climate and energy crises, and fossil fuel projects are harming communities and the environment," Arima added. "G7 countries need to do much more than make climate commitments that they break."

While the United States, Australia, and Russia top the list of counties, by emissions, where publicly financed LNG products were built in the past decade or are now underway, they are followed by nations that aren't the "worse offenders" in terms of funding: Mozambique, Canada, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico.

As Common Dreams has reported, civil society groups across Africa have argued in recent months that "rather than doubling down on the obsolete and dirty energy systems," the African Union must "move away from harmful fossil fuels towards a transformed energy system that is clean, renewable, democratic, and actually serves its peoples."

Anabela Lemos, director of Justica Ambiental!/Friends of the Earth Mozambique, echoed that argument Wednesday.

While Global North nations, "the culprits creating the climate crisis, benefit from this gas," it is the Global South "who will suffer," Lemos stressed, noting that "Mozambique has been hit by four cyclones within three years that have displaced over 1 million people."

"The gas industry in Mozambique is devastating the country's climate, people, environment, and economy," she said. "Even though gas has been produced in Mozambique for decades, still only 30% of people have electricity access, and in Inhambane Province, where Sasol has been extracting gas for 20 years, displaced communities have seen no benefits."

"Northern governments and their companies involved in the Mozambique LNG Project in Cabo Delgado Province are complicit in forcing the already debt-ridden country into a fossil fuel lock-in, and pushing people into further poverty, by taking away their livelihoods and fueling a war that has created 1 million refugees," Lemos added.

Given the impacts of export terminals on both the climate and the communities around such facilities, OCI's report concludes with recommendations that include ending domestic subsidies and permits for fossil fuel development, scaling up finance for clean energy, and providing debt cancellation, climate finance, and loss and damage support for the Global South.

"To meet their climate obligations, governments should stop funding LNG expansion," said McGibbon. "In addition, those countries that have not already done so should join the Glasgow Statement initiative to show they are serious about solving the climate and energy security crises. Anything less is just hot air."

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