People and communities demand rapid, equitable and just energy transition to renewable energy systems for long-term energy security and a climate-safe future
By Lidy Nacpil
Governments and fossil fuel companies have been pushing the expansion of gas energy as a solution to the energy crisis and energy poverty, and justifying gas as a transition fuel out of coal. The fact is, gas is a fossil fuel as harmful as coal, and renewable energy is a safe, affordable and available alternative to all fossil fuels.
In Asia, billions of dollars worth of projects are currently underway to expand liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and gas power plants and pipelines. The more than US$350 billion of new gas infrastructure projects is triple the estimated investment for Europe and purportedly aimed at allowing Asian countries to avoid burning more coal. Plans for new and expanded gas power and LNG import infrastructure in Southeast Asia are highest in Vietnam. This, despite analyses demonstrating that Vietnam can feasibly transition to clean energy without any new LNG development, with cost savings over the long term. We do not believe for a second that these new gas projects will greatly benefit Asia.
Gas development in many places has done damage rather than good: displacing people and communities, worsening poverty, endangering health and harming people and the planet. Gas is not immediately or commonly understood as harmful energy, but research shows the use of gas for electricity generation, heating in buildings, and industry contributed almost as much as coal power to premature deaths in 96 cities around the world in 2020. The largest component of gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in terms of how much it contributes to global warming. Analysis finds the LNG capacity now under construction globally coupled with expansion plans, would increase greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 to levels that will bring us closer to a climate catastrophe.
Sustained high LNG prices and competition for limited supplies have further debunked the economic case for gas and the claim that gas is key to meeting the rising energy demand in the region. The promised benefits of gas expansion are all gas, so to speak.
People and communities demand rapid, equitable, and just energy transition to renewable energy systems for long-term energy security and a climate-safe future. We need access to clean, adequate, and affordable energy that can support basic needs, quality essential services, and economic development that is sustainable and brings shared prosperity. We need locally-available energy supply that moves our countries away from reliance on energy imports and is not subject to fluctuations in global markets, supply disruptions, and geopolitics. This underscores the need to rapidly transition to renewables, now the cheapest power option in most regions and the most readily-available and cost-effective way to provide 90 per cent of all decarbonisation by 2050. To achieve this, currently installed renewable power capacity must be tripled by 2030.
Last May 4, climate campaigners and people from affected communities protested against the massive gas expansion that is being shoved down our throats under the guise of supporting the transition to a cleaner energy system. Rallies were held in Asia’s biggest cities – Tokyo, Incheon, Mandaluyong, Jakarta, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Dhaka, Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Lahore, Karachi and Colombo. These rallies were part of the Asia-wide mobilizations for the Don’t Gas Asia campaign, a global solidarity movement against fossil gas expansion urging governments to prioritize a just transition to renewable energy. It is linked to the Don’t Gas Africa and Don’t Gas Latin America campaigns.
The rallies coincided with the 56th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors held from 2-5 May in South Korea. They spotlighted the role of the ADB and the governments of Japan and Korea in the gas buildout in Asia.
ADB continues to finance gas projects despite its avowed commitment to support low-carbon transition in Asia-Pacific. ADB is the third largest public financier of gas projects in Asia between 2014 and 2018, financing a total of 2.8 billion U.S. dollars. Japan, one of the largest shareholders of ADB and holds the presidency of ADB, is the second largest public financier with 4.1 billion U.S. dollars. Japanese banks Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mizuho Financial are also the biggest private financiers of fossil gas in the region. Korea, which hosts this year’s ADB meeting, has dialed back on renewable energy targets rolled out in 2020. It plans to continue fossil gas use by converting coal-fired power generation to gas and financing gas projects.
Fossil gas expansion is toxic and unsustainable for Asia. It will not stave off the impacts of climate change in the region, nor secure our energy supplies to develop the region’s economies, despite what fossil fuel financiers and banks that support them, like the ADB, are telling us. It would lock us in fossil fuel emissions for years, slow down the clean energy transition, and lock out any potential of countries to attain energy security and sustainable development.
Lidy Nacpil is the coordinator of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).