21 April 2015, Lagos – Chief executives from major oil companies and senior government officials from several oil-producing countries met in the United States of America at the weekend and demonstrated a commitment to end the practice of routine gas flaring at oil production sites globally latest by 2030.
But Nigeria, with the second largest gas flaring record in the world after Russia, is yet to sign the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030,” initiative .
The United Nations (UN), World Bank-backed initiative, which already has nine countries, ten international oil companies (IOCs) and six development institutions signing in– was launched at the on-going Spring Meetings of the IMF/World Bank holding in Washington DC by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim.
Royal Dutch Shell Chairman, Jorma Ollila; Statoil CEO, Eldar Sætre; Norwegian Foreign Minister, Børge Brende; Gabonese Minister of Petroleum, Etienne Dieudonne Ngoubou; and several other senior government and corporate officials, and representatives of international development banks were among the endorsees countries, which have so far endorsed the initiative are Cameroon, Russia, Kazakhastan, Gabon, Uzbekistan, Republic of Congo, Angola and France.
The endorsers collectively represent more than 40 per cent of global gas flaring.
Every year, around 140 billion cubic metres of natural gas produced together with oil is wastefully burned or “flared” at thousands of oil fields around the world, which results in more than 300 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted to the atmosphere; equivalent to emissions from approximately 77 million cars.
If this amount of associated gas were used for power generation, it could provide more electricity (750bn kWh) than the entire African continent is consuming today. But currently, the gas is flared for a variety of technical, regulatory, and economic reasons, or because its use is not given high priority.
Speaking at the event, World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim said: “Gas flaring is a visual reminder that we are wastefully sending CO2 into the atmosphere. We can do something about this. Together we can take concrete action to end flaring and to use this valuable natural resource to light the darkness for those without electricity.”
By endorsing the initiative, governments, oil companies and development institutions recognise that routine gas flaring is unsustainable from a resource management and environmental perspective and agree to cooperate to eliminate on-going routine flaring as soon as possible and no later than 2030.
They will publicly report their flaring and progress towards the target on an annual basis. Furthermore, routine flaring will not take place in new oil fields developments. Governments will provide an operating environment conducive to investments and to the development of functioning energy markets.
“As we head towards the adoption of a meaningful new international climate agreement in Paris in December, these countries and companies are demonstrating real climate action,” said United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, adding that “reducing gas flaring can make a significant contribution towards mitigating climate change. I appeal to all oil-producing countries and companies to join this important initiative.”
Although no Nigerian official was represented at the launch of the initiative, the National Coordinator of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Nigeria Coalition, Ms. Faith Nwadishi, who was invited in her capacity of civil society organisation (CSO) captivated the global audience when she challenged them not to play to the gallery but demonstrate practical expression to ending the evil which gas flaring represents.
Nwadishi, who reminded the audience that several initiatives towards ending gas flaring in Nigeria and other parts of the world by the oil companies had remained an illusion due to lack of sincerity, said this time around, the initiative must be matched with action. She noted that among the hazards of gas flaring include acid rain, which is very dangerous to human existence
In an interview with THISDAY, she lamented, “If you go an active gas flare site, you wouldn’t even want to come close because of the heat, and the other issues around it. Like in my state in Delta, the people like to eat dry garri and fish. The women go out there to dry their garri and fish without considering the health implications.
“The issue of gas flaring goes beyond the amount of money that can be saved or how much money people can get out of it for business. We really have to think about the fact that people are not sensitive to the plight of people who live in active gas flare sites.
“Putting this endorsement into action is very crucial because there have been many endorsements in the past. Companies want to sign and look good in the face of international community; developing countries also want to sign because it is an internationally-led initiative. They want to also look good in the face so that their foreign aid will be good. But when it comes back, the commitment, political will and capacity to implement it is not there.
“We have a lot of initiatives. For instance, I represent African civil societies on the EITI international board. Nigeria is one of the EITI implementers. Most of the companies you see here have endorsed EITI, but a lot of them have cases in court challenging countries that have legislations that will make such things work within their countries of operation. That for me is a double faced commitment to it.
“We want to see people who sign on to end gas flare actually committing to it. It is a good thing that all the companies that spoke here work in Nigeria, and they have active gas flare sites in Nigeria. That is the irony of it. I want to see a situation whereby, when they leave this meeting, and next week I begin to see their gas flare sites been shut down. Because they have signed up on this endorsement,” she said.
Nwadishi said a lot of work is already being done in Nigeria by the government, adding that they needed to “give it a lot more force.”
The World Bank has been active on the issue of ending gas flaring for 15 years, as a founding member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR).
The bank works with its partners in GGFR and the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All) to increase the use of associated gas by helping remove the technical and regulatory barriers to flaring reduction.
Oil companies and governments that are yet to endorse the latest initiative are currently undertaking comprehensive reviews of their gas flaring. Many are expected to join the in the coming months.
– This Day