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Planned project in Senegal: Scholz’s African gas plans are causing trouble

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz made unusually clear statements in Dakar in May. “Of course, it is also about working together on the use of the natural gas resources that Senegal has,” said Scholz during his visit to the West African country on a planned energy cooperation between the two countries. These were the first months after the start of the war in Ukraine. The illusion of cheap energy fell, gas prices exploded. Senegal should help. With solar energy, with wind energy and with gas. “It makes sense to follow this closely,” said Scholz in Dakar.

But not everyone in Berlin sees it that way. From within the traffic light coalition, the chancellor has been accused of breaching the contract, and a dispute has arisen behind the scenes between the chancellery and several ministries. The Greens, in particular, categorically reject the project. But there is also international criticism, even at the world climate conference in Egypt, a possible gas deal with Senegal was a point of contention. There is talk of “double standards” and “energy colonialism”.

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3.4

billion cubic meters of gas BP wants to produce annually off the coast of Senegal – for more than 20 years.

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Because Germany has actually committed itself not to invest further in fossil projects in the Global South. At the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow, after much hesitation, Germany signed a corresponding declaration together with 38 other countries, according to which public support for fossil energy projects had to be ended by the end of 2022. “A gas project in Senegal would be a clear violation of Glasgow,” says climate protection activist Luisa Neubauer to the Tagesspiegel.

It is not at all clear to what extent Scholz’s words in Dakar were actually followed by deeds. “It is completely non-transparent what is planned so far,” says Neubauer, who spoke to Scholz about the project on the sidelines of the climate conference. “We do not have any further information on gas projects in Senegal,” said the Ministry of Economic Affairs on request. The Federal Chancellery leaves corresponding questions unanswered.

It is known that the British mineral oil company BP, together with other investors, wants to extract gas 120 kilometers off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal at a depth of around 2800 meters and export it to Europe as liquefied natural gas (LNG). BP expects 3.4 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the project, which is planned for more than 20 years – with the potential for an extension, as the company emphasizes in a brochure.

For German climate protectors, the project is a no-go. The German Environmental Aid warns that the world’s largest cold-water coral reef and countless species would be threatened.

This deal, which is intended to help Germany out of its self-inflicted energy crisis, is a sign of a colonial understanding of the world.

Luisa Neubauer criticizes Chancellor Scholz for his plans in Senegal.

Climate activist Neubauer, who joined forces with Senegalese activists at the climate conference, also fears social consequences: “Apart from the climate crisis and environmental destruction, people in Senegal fear that the project will deprive them of their livelihoods,” says Neubauer.

Around every sixth job in Senegal is related to fishing, and if the jobs were lost, this could lead to refugee movements. She openly criticizes Olaf Scholz: “This deal, which is intended to help Germany out of its self-inflicted energy crisis, is a sign of a colonial understanding of the world.”

Luisa Neubauer is considered Germany’s best-known climate activist.
© picture alliance/dpa

The Greens reject the project – the FDP supports the chancellor

There is also trouble within the federal government. “It is clear to us that the focus of the use of public and private funds must be on accelerating the global energy transition,” said a spokesman for Robert Habeck’s (Greens) Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Jennifer Morgan, Special Representative for International Climate Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, recently recalled the Glasgow resolutions in the “ZEIT”. “We are currently examining what is possible in individual cases,” said the diplomat diplomatically.

Because there are exceptions that Scholz’s environment refers to. In fact, investments remain possible if they are in line with the 1.5 degree path of the Paris Agreement – but whether this is the case with such a large project is doubtful.

But Scholz seems determined on the project. The federal government is in exchange with the Senegalese government on gas production, said a spokeswoman for the chancellery when asked by the daily mirror.

The Chancellor has long been trying to maintain good relations with Senegal's President Macky Sall.
The Chancellor has long been trying to maintain good relations with Senegal’s President Macky Sall.
© REUTERS / LEONHARD FOEGER

He has long identified Senegal as a key state. The country currently holds the presidency of the African Union. The continent will play an important role in the global energy transition and the diversification of raw material supplies. Scholz wants to create trust, because China in particular has recently been trying hard for these countries.

This is also why he invited Senegal’s President Macky Sall to the G7 summit in Elmau. In the final declaration, the G7 heads of state committed themselves to the 1.5-degree target, but at the same time emphasized the importance of liquefied natural gas for independence from Russian gas.

With this justification, the FDP also supports the Chancellor’s plans. New gas fields in Senegal could help expand the supplier structure, said the parliamentary group’s climate policy spokesman, Lukas Köhler. “In addition, it would be cynical to reject Senegal as a partner and to deny the country the associated opportunities, while instead the missing quantities are bought in Qatar, for example,” Köhler told the Tagesspiegel. This could help to lower the gas price.

However, Greens leader Ricarda Lang rejects the project categorically: “It is clear to me that the focus must not be on new gas fields.” The Chancellor’s plans in Berlin are not yet as clear as they were in Dakar.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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