Asia’s fossil fuel plans oblivious to UN’s climate scare

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Asian demand for fossil fuels is unlikely to be deterred by the United Nations’ Aug. 9 fearmongering climate report.

Asian countries like India and China are increasing their production and consumption of fossil fuels. India — one of the largest energy consumers — is not only a big importer of fossil fuel but is also a key investor in oil exploration projects in other countries. This aggressive development of oil, gas, and coal stands in stark contrast to the mainstream media’s narrative of a so-called green revolution. 

The media and many political leaders consider the reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be the definitive authority on climate and its impact on society. The reports usually contain a summary that serves as a guide for policymakers who influence energy development across the world.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the latest report a “code red for humanity“. NPR’s headlines read, “Major Report Warns Climate Change Is Accelerating And Humans Must Cut Emissions Now”. NPR also quoted a report author who warned, “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions of all greenhouse gases, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach.” Most climate policy recommendations prescribe reduction of CO2 emissions.

Though the world’s nations have agreed to cut down on emissions, their commitments on quantity and time frame vary. India and China have espoused a twin investment strategy that includes the development of both fossil fuels and renewable energy resources. 

India, though with a population similar to China’s, is far behind China on the economic ladder. The subcontinent has made clear that it won’t be adopting policies adversely affecting domestic energy programs and continues to accelerate the expansion of its fossil fuel sector. 

As the U.N. works to impose its vision of a carbon-free economy on the world, India is expanding its carbon footprint in new territories. The country is in talks with Russia to invest $3 billion USD in Russian oil and gas assets. While Russia has offered a number of oil fields to India, the latter is particularly keen on investing in the Vostok Oil project in the Arctic, which is expected to have annual crude production of about 100 million tons. 

Indian public sector oil and gas companies like Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Oil India Limited are among the biggest investors in Africa’s oil sector. The Indian government’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has invested billions of dollars in Africa. 

ONGC has “35 oil and gas assets in 15 countries.” Producing 15 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent in 2019-20 from these countries, ONGC provided more than 50 percent of India’s foreign oil production. ONGC’s African investment was originally set at around $16 Billion USD and is likely to grow as domestic demand increases.

India also relies heavily on oil imports from Iraq, U.S., and Africa. India’s oil imports were at a three-year high last year with December 2020 registering imports of 5 million barrels a day. Despite the Net Zero noises in the U.S., it is a global leader in oil exports, and India is the fourth largest importer of U.S. crude. India could very well move higher up the rank as the first quarter of 2021 witnessed a historic increase in U.S. product. 

The International Energy Agency says, “India will make up the biggest global share of energy demand growth from now until 2040” — well ahead of China. Industry experts believe that oil from the Middle East will meet a major proportion of this energy demand.

In order to reduce its dependency on imports (85 percent of Indian oil demand is supplied from abroad), India is expanding its domestic production fields. More than 20 new oil fields are up for grabs and investors are likely to pour in around $400 million USD during the ongoing Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) Bids. 

These recent investments were made despite India’s being a part of the Paris agreement.  With such aggressive plans in place to meet oil demand, India’s commitment to produce more will not be deterred by “code red” declarations. The situation is unlikely to change in the next 10 years.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Contributing Writer to the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.


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