in: PLOS Climate 1 (12), article e0000109
Recently, awareness about climate change has increased. Behavioural changes and micro-level and macro-level actions towards low-carbon economies are becoming more widespread, propelled by increasing scientific evidence and climate activism. As individuals continue to become more climate-conscious, climate-mitigation legislation has also gained traction. In 2019, the European Commission agreed on the European Green Deal, which included a recommendation to phase out new financing for fossil fuel projects in third countries. This recommendation was reiterated at the COP26 in Glasgow, by the European Investment Bank, and more recently by the European Commission in preparation for the COP27 in Cairo. Against this background, the European Parliament recently adopted resolution 2022/2826(RSP), broadly condemning alleged human rights violations linked with the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Alongside the human rights questions, the European Parliamentarians also argue that the project will both increase emissions and cause ecological damage—and so, in line with European climate policies, they argue that the project should close.
In this essay, I use the example of EU resolution 2022/2826(RSP) and the debates surrounding it to argue that whilst debates following this and similar resolutions supporting blanket bans on fossil fuel investments in low-income countries might be well-intentioned, a more differentiated view of the implications of these resolutions is necessary, especially considering developing countries’ needs and preferences. Blanket application of climate strategies developed in the Global North (such as stopping funding fossil fuel extractions in low-income countries) can be deeply unfair and unjust, and entrench more poverty than they hope to reduce. Moreover, these debates tend to focus on the policy needs of the Global North, with limited regard to Global South contexts and needs. This is especially significant in the context of aiming for just energy transitions, in which low-income countries are not left worse off without fossil fuel extraction.