KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY APPO SECRETARY GENERAL, DR. OMAR FAROUK IBRAHIM, TO THE 2021 ANGOLA OIL AND GAS SERVICES AND TECHNOLOGIES CONFERENCE, LUANDA, ANGOLA, 23 NOVEMBER 2021 VIA VIDEOCONFERENCE

Your Excellency Engineer Jose Barroso, Secretary of State for Oil and Gas of APPO Member Country, Angola, Engineer Braulio De Brito, President of the Angola Oil and Gas Service Companies Association, Global Event Partners – the organizers of AOTC, distinguished delegates and participants at this important conference, I thank the organizers for the invitation to give a keynote address at this year’s AOTC. 

  1. I should like to begin by clearing some misconceptions about APPO’s position on energy transition. The first is that APPO does not contest the science of climate change. Climate change is real. The second is that we are not against actions that will protect the environment and make it safer for this and future generations. Afterall, our continent is projected to have ¼ of the world’s population by the year 2050. 
  2. Having clarified APPO’s position on these matters, I should also like to shed some light on some misleading thoughts about the current discourse on energy transition related to these misconceptions. 
  3. The first is that the science of climate change is new and that the world only recently stumbled on the knowledge about climate change and the harmful effects of fossil fuel use on the planet. But this is wrong as it is on record that as far back as 1896 studies by Western scientists had posited a relationship between human-caused emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and global warming. 
  4. A study conducted in 1938, on global land temperatures over the preceding 50 years, showed that temperature was indeed rising. But nothing was done about it. Infact, the outcome of the study was suppressed. The mainstream scientific communities in Europe and America were discouraged from pursuing that area of research. And so for nearly a hundred years, up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the world, especially the industrialized countries, continued to use cheap, reliable and affordable fossil fuel without any restraint. 
  5. So why the paradigm shift away from fossil fuels to renewables?
  6. In 1973, the Organization of the Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, OAPEC, different from OPEC, decided to impose oil embargo on the United States and some European countries for their support to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Within a year, the barrel had jumped from $2.90 to $11.65. And for the first time in their post-World War II history, Americans were rationing gasoline. The shock to the American economy resulting from the oil embargo of 1973 made the Americans and their Western allies, that had for decades depended on cheap imported oil, to resolve not to continue to rely on foreign, especially Arab, oil. A decision was made that America must wean itself from foreign oil dependency. And this position has been reiterated by all the US Presidents from 1973 to date.
  7. Unfortunately for the US, it had only about 4% of global proven oil reserves while it was consuming about 20% of global oil production. Initially it was decided to support oil exploration in the US and other friendly neighboring states, like Canada. Hence, the support for shale oil and other technologies. But shale production could not compete, in cost, with conventional oil production, which the Middle East has in great abundance. It therefore became clear that weaning America from foreign oil was going to be at a cost that the average American commuter would not be ready to pay. 
  8. When that strategy failed, the West decided to find another energy source and immediately embarked on a policy of supporting research on renewable energy. To justify the huge amount of financial support for renewable energy research, the authorities also commissioned studies on the adverse effects of fossil fuels on the planet. As noted earlier, this is not unknown. For about 100 years, the Western scientific community had known about emissions from fossil fuels. But those findings were not popularized because today’s industrialized countries needed that source of energy to consolidate their industrialization and economic growth. They needed fossil fuel to transform their transportation, their agriculture, medicine and the entire fabric of their society. They needed that energy to propel their societies from reliance on wealth created from the production of manufactured goods in factories, which is energy intensive, to the post-fossil fuel economy, where wealth is created from the manufacture of knowledge and artificial intelligence and therefore requires little energy.  And that is where these societies are today.  
  9. So, from the last quarter of the 20th century a series of researches were commissioned to prove and popularize what had already been known a century earlier, namely that fossil fuels produce GHG which are detrimental to the planet and by extension human existence. A lot of money was devoted to the climate project, including supporting the rise of various environment-focused civil society organizations and ensuring that the issue got global attention, including at the UN.  There was a concerted effort to demonize fossil fuels in order to popularize renewable energies. 
  10. Excellencies, the point I am trying to make is that for as long as today’s industrialized countries needed fossil fuels to grow their economies and transform their societies, they did not allow climate change to become a global issue. Now that they have transformed their economies to rely less on energy, but more on knowledge production and artificial intelligence, and the poor countries of the world, particularly Africa, are on the verge of industrialization, we are being told that the energy that transformed the economies of today’s industrialized nations, is not good for the world to use.
  11. The second misleading thought is that advocates of continuous use of fossil fuels, like APPO, are against actions that will protect the environment and make it safer for this and future generations. Again, this is far from the truth. What we are saying is that whatever actions are taken to protect the environment should conform to the “principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances’’ as this principle was key in assuaging the fears of developing countries, especially oil and gas producing countries, in the early years of the climate negotiation process. 
  12. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is sad that the above key principle of the Paris Climate Agreement, the inclusion of which was central to getting developing countries, including APPO Member Countries, to accede to the Agreement, has now been relegated to the background, limiting it to discussions about financial assistance to poor countries to enable them execute energy transition programs. In other words, we are being told that our key concerns can be taken care of with money, hence the establishment of the Climate Fund essentially for amelioration and adaptation as poor countries make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies.  
  13. But is the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities …… all about financial assistance? Does it not also include technological assistance, like the provision of technologies that will enable poor countries with huge petroleum reserves to produce these resources for the use of their people, with minimum carbon footprints? Why are we not talking about popularizing such technologies as CCUS, DAC, Carbon Sync etc? Why is all the conversation on adaptation and mitigation? Why are we being presurised to abandon what we have in abundance for what we have no technology for? 
  14. Talking about climate finance, a number of questions beg for answers: 
  15. What guarantee have we that the pledged amounts will be redeemed, given the unenviable history of redemption of past pledges on climate issues? 
  16. How much of the funds are going to mitigation and how much to adaptation? 
  17. How much of those funds are grants and how much are loans to be repaid with interest in the future?
  18. What conditions are attached to the allocation and disbursement of the climate funds?
  19. Will taking those funds now lead Africa back into the debt trap?
  20. Ladies and gentlemen, whatever the answers to the above questions are, they point to the need for Africa to consider looking inwards for solutions to its many problems. We cannot afford to classify 125 billion barrels of crude oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas as stranded assets when we have the largest proportion of the global population living in energy poverty, when our continent with 17% of the world population contributed no more than 3.5% of the global GHG emissions, and when we have neither the capital nor the technology for the new energies but at least have some of the basic infrastructure of fossil energy. 
  21. Energy transition should provide Africa an opportunity to take its destiny into its own hands. For oil producing countries, this is the time to create a continental or regional oil and gas market. This is the time to pool resources together to create or expand cross-country regional energy infrastructure;
  22. This is the time to create or expand refineries and petrochemical plants to serve the continent and its regions, not just countries. 
  23. And there is no better time for this than now that we are losing our traditional markets for oil and gas and fortuitously at a time the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement has come into force. The time to act is now. 
  24. I thank you all for your kind attention.

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