From Africa to South America, leaders say environmental lobby hindering development

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In a world grappling with the urgent need to combat climate change, the western environmental lobby stands accused of putting some nations between a rock and a hard place. A divide seems to be emerging between anti-oil activists and officials representing the pro-oil interests of nations, like South Africa and Guyana, fighting to be energy secure. 

“They block development in our country,” South Africa energy minister, Gwede Mantashe said of “protracted litigations” that have driven Eni and Equinor from the market, according to Energy Voice.

The publication said that while Mantashe was excited to hear about recent eyepopping discoveries offshore Namibia, he said companies making discoveries there were chased from South Africa. 

“Three discoveries of oil have been made in Namibia and they’re drilling 10 wells, that’s progress. On our side, where those deposits are stretching, we can’t, because we’ve given environmentalists a veto power over development,” Mantashe is quoted as saying. 

An ocean away, Guyana’s Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo has been lamenting about the same issue. “There is an environmental lobby that wants to shut down the oil and gas industry, and it’s playing out here and abroad, and that will harm our country. We’re not into this.” 

Jagdeo has said the country’s newfound oil riches can make the country energy secure and set it on a pathway to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. The government has also outlined a plan for its energy transition, using its natural gas endowment as a transition fuel. 

“Don’t waste your time on these people. They would have us suffer forever,” Jagdeo said last year of the lobby.

Last year, President of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali criticised developed nations for not delivering on promises to provide adaptation support. He said that because those funds are not coming, Guyana has to explore every revenue-generating measure. 

Back in Africa, Executive Chair of the African Energy Chamber, NJ Ayuk said Western climate campaigners have targeted Mozambique and Uganda too. He contends that the opposition of Western environmental lobbyists to oil extraction could put those countries in a precarious position that leaves them dependent on “handouts” and jeopardise their path to self-sufficiency.

“Africans don’t hate Oil and Gas companies,” Ayuk said. “We love Oil and Gas companies, that’s why everywhere I go around Africa, the message I hear from young and old people is ‘Drill Baby Drill’. We need oil and gas to get out of energy poverty,” the energy chair said on LinkedIn. 

Ayuk explained that hundreds of millions of Africans have insufficient access to electricity currently, and that while renewable energy is touted, the investment in Africa in this regard is minimal. He said if access to Africans’ fossil fuel endowments is cut off, hundreds of millions will quite literally be left in the dark. 

As the international community strives to strike a balance between environmental preservation and socio-economic progress, many nations, especially in the developing world, are walking a delicate tightrope to secure their future.

Meanwhile, several developed countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway are expanding oil exploration and production efforts. 


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