Europe’s big oil companies exploit African natural-gas loophole

(Africa Report, Paris, 24 May 2021) Facing pressure from the public and Western regulators, as well as from shareholders and financial partners, oil industry majors, especially those based in Europe – chiefly Shell, BP, Total and Eni – have initiated an unprecedented transformation by voluntarily reducing their crude oil activities in favour of [so called] “greener” forms of energy. This may be good news for environmental activists, but not so for Africa’s oil-producing countries that benefit from the tax revenues and jobs the industry brings. In the global race to reduce carbon emissions, Africa is a bystander rather than an active participant. The continent produces 9% of the world’s liquefied petroleum gas (oil) – or 7.2m barrels a day – and 6% of its natural gas, while being a low emitter of greenhouse gases. Home to 17% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for just 2% of global carbon emissions. In addition, more than half of its oil production is for export. Shell’s stated goal, backed by the European Union and the UK, is to become carbon neutral by 2050. Europe’s oil majors, while not required to meet any legal obligations at this stage, have integrated this target across their operations. It takes into account the end use of the fuels they sell (scope 3 emissions), which is by far the largest factor in carbon emissions. For example, the French group Total’s direct emissions amount to around 45m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, but its vehicle-related emissions are estimated to be as high as 450m metric tonnes.