What does an alliance to end oil and gas mean for India?, Auto News, ET Auto
On November 11, at the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) was launched: a diplomatic initiative led by Denmark and Costa Rica to bring together ambitious governments committed to phasing out oil and gas production. In the aftermath of COP 26, India has been singled out for its resistance to international pressure on coal. But what stance would India adopt on the new oil and gas focused alliance?
To answer this question, we first need to understand why BOGA was created, and what it aims to do. The alliance is driven by the scientific consensus that there is no room left for fossil fuel expansion. This was a central focus of the Production Gap report, co-sponsored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which found that countries plan to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Similarly, IEA analysis has highlighted that no new development of fossil fuels is possible if we are to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In light of this evidence, BOGA members are agreeing to two key things: first, to end the licensing of new oil and gas fields. Second, to set an end-date for existing oil and gas production, consistent with no more than 1.5°C of average global temperature change. While BOGA’s eleven founding members are not the world’s largest oil and gas producers, BOGA is intended to be a group of “first movers” — high-ambition countries who seek to lead by example.
India’s stance on BOGA is likely to reflect its ongoing position in climate negotiations, where it is part of two key groups—BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC). Both groups highlight issues of equity, climate finance and access to emissions budgets allowing for economic development. The two issues they most frequently raised during COP 26 were the inability of developed countries to mobilize a long-promised $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 and how this jeopardises the enhanced ambition that developing countries are under pressure to provide.
As such, although not primed to be a “first mover” on oil and gas transition, India could see BOGA as an effective way to encourage developed economies to ramp up action—particularly if BOGA can link its objectives to finance and technical support for the Global South.
That said, for India, the issues raised by BOGA are much less sensitive than anything related to coal, because of its low levels of domestic oil and gas production. India has a high import dependency for both oil and gas: in the financial year 2020, 85% of oil and 53% of gas consumed was imported. The country was the world’s 21st largest oil producer with 771 thousand barrels per day of crude oil that accounted for 0.9 % of global production. And it generated 24 billion cubic meters of natural gas—0.6% of the global output—making it the 29th largest producer in the world.
India’s interest in BOGA will further be determined by how much the country targets to drive reductions in oil and gas. The government has also committed to ending all energy imports by 2047, aiming to become effectively energy independent. This can only be achieved by massive investments in electric mobility, ethanol and hydrogen, which could in turn enable phase outs of domestic oil and gas production. Conversely, the government has been building extensive new natural gas import and distribution infrastructure, which may drive things in an opposite direction, at least between now and 2030. Much will depend upon how quickly costs fall for new technologies.
In the coming years, all eyes will be on how many more governments sign up for BOGA membership, as one of the only tangible initiatives to keep oil and gas in the ground. The outcome of COP 26 has certainly highlighted the problems that arise when phase out efforts focus squarely on coal and leave aside oil and gas: it can create a false narrative that northern economies are climate leaders while the Global South is driving climate change. If anything, India should champion BOGA as an example of exactly the kind of ambitious action it has been calling for from advanced economies for decades.
(The writer is a Senior Policy Advisor at International Institute for Sustainable Development)