Entries with Categories Global Affairs Energy, resources and sustainability .

The country left the cartel in order to expand pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%.

Construction of a variant of the oil pipeline that crosses the Andes, from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the Pacific [Petroecuador].

ANALYSIS / Jack Acrich and Alejandro Haro

Ecuador left the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 1 January 2020 to avoid having to continue to join the production cuts imposed by group , which it agrees to in order to push up the world price of crude oil. Ecuador preferred to sell more barrels, albeit at a lower price, because by exporting more at the end of the day written request it could increase its income and thus get out of its serious financial situation status , which the coronavirus emergency has only accentuated, with a fall in GDP in 2020 currently estimated at 9.5 per cent.

However, domestic economic difficulties and the difficult international situation have not only prevented Ecuador from expanding pumping, but oil production has fallen by 10.8% in the last year. average In 2020, Ecuador extracted 472,000 barrels of oil per day, especially affected by the sharp reduction in activity in April with the beginning of the confinement, which was not compensated for the rest of the year. agreement This is a volume that is below the 500,000 line that has always been exceeded in recent years (in 2019 production was 528,000), according to figures from Petroecuador, the state hydrocarbons company. The reduction in global consumption during the Covid-19 year also correlated with a drop in the consumption of derivatives in Ecuador, especially gasoline and diesel, which fell by 18.5%.

International investment constrained by the pandemic context and reduced consumption marked a status that could hardly lead to an increase in production. In 2020, Ecuador saw a drop in the value of oil exports of 42.1% (twice as much as total exports), which, combined with a deterioration in the price of a barrel of oil, meant a 40.9% reduction in public revenue from the oil sector, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data .

The figures for the first two months of 2021 indicate an accentuation of the fall in crude oil production (-4.73% compared to January and February 2020) and derivatives (-7.47%), as well as their export (-22.8%).

Cutting expense and seeking oil revenues

Exiting OPEC did not pose any particular risk for Ecuador, which had already left the organisation in a previous period. Its limited weight in OPEC and the progressive decline in the cartel's own strength meant that Ecuador's attempt to go it alone was not particularly costly. The absolute priority of Lenín Moreno's government was to rebalance the country's macroeconomic picture - battered by the high public expense of his predecessor, Rafael Correa - and for this it urgently needed to increase state revenue, a significant part of which in Ecuador normally comes from the hydrocarbons sector.

When he became president in 2017, Moreno set out to steer the country towards more market-friendly energy policies. The president was determined to break with the nationalist approach of his predecessor, whose policies discouraged foreign investment in the oil industry while significantly increasing public debt. Among the most costly programmes undertaken by Correa was to maintain high subsidies for energy consumption, with especially low fuel prices.

In order to overcome the financial status that Ecuador found itself in when he took office, Moreno approached the IMF to apply for financial aid financial, and committed to structural reforms, including the gradual dismantling of subsidies. These reforms, however, were not well received and the social unrest that spread throughout the country put further pressure on the oil industry.

In February 2019, Moreno negotiated an IMF loan to help reduce the country's large fiscal deficit and huge external debt, which by the end of 2018 had reached 46.1 per cent of GDP and twelve months later would reach 51.8 per cent. The committed 'bailout' was for $10.2 billion, of which $6.5 billion came from the IMF and the rest from other international agencies.

As part of austerity measures agreed with the IMF, Moreno was forced to end government subsidies that had kept petrol prices low for decades. In early October 2019 he announced a plan of cuts to save $2.27 billion a year, essentially withdrawing the fuel subsidy. The advertisement decree, which would later be annulled, immediately provoked massive protests, both from transporters and low-income sectors, as well as most notably from indigenous communities. The street violence forced the president to leave Quito for a few days and move to Guayaquil.

To address the need for revenue, Moreno sought to rely on the oil industry, which accounts for roughly a third of the country's total exports. He initially expressed the intention to seek a rise from the 545,000 barrels of crude oil produced at the time to almost 700,000 barrels a day.

goal One of the measures taken in this direction was to promote the development and the exploitation of the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha field, with the aim of increasing oil production by 90,000 barrels a day. This decision met with social rejection due to the environmental damage it could cause, as the Yasuní National Park, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has been declared a protected area. The government then decided to postpone the expansion of production, first to 2021 and then to 2022. The civil service examination was especially led by indigenous communities, in a mobilisation that partly explains the success in the 2021 presidential elections of Yaku Pérez's indigenist Pachakutik movement, which almost made it to the second round.

Another measure was to reverse some of his predecessor's emblematic policies. For example, he eliminated the service contracts introduced under President Correa, thus restoring the model production-sharing contract. This reform was more favourable to international oil companies, as it allowed them to retain a share of oil reserves; it also offered them financial incentives to invest in the country. The new model was first applied in the tenders awarded during the twelfth Intracampos oil round, in the Oriente region, which is rich in oil reserves. Under this contract modality , the Moreno administration awarded seven of the eight exploration blocks on offer with a total investment of more than $1.17 billion.

Fall in production

Due to the urgency of increasing revenues, Ecuador resisted the plan of production cuts that OPEC has been imposing on its members at various times since the abrupt fall in oil prices in 2014. Initially, the organisation accepted that some of its members, with moderate or very low production volumes compared to previous figures, as was the case of Venezuela, would maintain their extraction rates. But since it could no longer be an exception, Ecuador preferred to announce at the end of 2019 that it would leave OPEC and not have to reduce its production to 508,000 barrels per day in 2020, which was the quota set for it.

What is striking is that last year production finally fell from 528,000 barrels per day in 2019 to 472,000 (a drop of 10.8%), and not because of decisions taken at OPEC headquarters in Vienna but because of the various difficulties subject caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Petroecuador's oil exports fell from 331,321 barrels per day in 2019 to 316,000, a drop of 4.6%, which in monetary terms was greater, as the price of a barrel of Ecuadorian mixed oil fell from 55.3 dollars in 2019 to 34.7 in 2020.

One element that makes it difficult for Ecuador to take better advantage of its hydrocarbon potential is that it has insufficient infrastructure for refining crude oil. The country has three refineries, but their capacity does not reach the volume of domestic consumption of oil derivatives, which means that it must import diesel, naphtha and other products. This means that in times of high oil prices, Ecuador benefits from exports, but also has to pay a higher invoice price for imports of derivatives. In 2020, Petroecuador had to import 137,300 barrels per day.

The complicated situation caused by the pandemic has continued to put pressure on Ecuador's public debt, which reached 66.4% at the end of 2020, despite all the attempts made by the Moreno government to reduce it.

The next president, due to take office at the end of May 2021, will also have little room for manoeuvre due to these debt volumes and will have to continue to rely on higher oil revenues to balance public finances. The expansionary policies of expense during Correa's presidency took place in the context of the commodity super-cycle, which benefited South America so much, but this is unlikely to be repeated in the short term deadline.

OPEC's loss of weight

With its departure from OPEC, Ecuador left an international organisation that was created in 1960 with the aim of regulating the world oil market and controlling oil prices to a certain extent. goal . The founding members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Over time, other countries joined OPEC and today it is made up of thirteen members: Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and the five founding countries. When it was created, the organisation sought to establish, acting as a cartel, a kind of counterweight to a series of Western energy transnationals, mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom. OPEC members account for about 40 per cent of world oil production and contain about 80 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves. To be admitted as a member of the organisation it is necessary to have substantial oil exports and to share those of the member countries.

Ecuador joined OPEC in 1973, but suspended its membership in 1992. Subsequently, in 2007 it resumed active participation until its leave in January 2020. Considering that Ecuador was one of OPEC's smaller members, it did not really have much influence in the organisation and its exit does not represent a substantial loss for the organisation. However, it is a second departure in just one year, as Qatar, which had more weight in the cartel, left on 1 January 2019. In its case, its divorce from OPEC was due to other reasons, such as its tensions with Saudi Arabia and its desire to focus on the gas sector, of which it is one of the world's largest producers.

These moves are an example of OPEC's loss of influence. This has led it to establish alliances with producers that are not part of the organisation, such as Russia and some other countries forming OPEC+. With the decline of oil production in Venezuela and the decreasing ability of other members to control their production and exports, Saudi Arabia has been increasingly consolidating its position as the cartel's leader, accounting for around a third of the total production, with approximately 9.4 million barrels per day. In a way, Saudi Arabia and Russia remain, in a head to head battle, as the main countries seeking to cut production in an attempt to increase prices. Additionally, thanks to fracking, the United States has become the largest oil producer, representing a major influence on the international crude oil market, affecting the power that OPEC may have.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Latin America

The hydrocarbon field is the centrepiece of President Alberto Fernández's 2020-2023 Gas Plan, which subsidises part of the investment.

Activity of YPF, Argentina's state-owned hydrocarbon company [YPF].

ANALYSIS / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

Argentina is facing a deep economic crisis that is having a severe impact on the standard of living of its citizens. The country, which had managed to emerge with enormous sacrifices from the corralito of 2001, sees its leaders committing the same macroeconomic recklessness that led the national Economics to collapse. After a hugely disappointing mandate by Mauricio Macri and his economic "gradualism", the new administration of Alberto Fernández has inherited a very delicate status , now aggravated by the global and national crisis generated by Covid-19. Public debt is now almost 100% of GDP, the Argentine peso is worth less than 90 units to the US dollar, while the public deficit persists. The Economics is still in recession, accumulating four years of decline. The IMF, which lent nearly $44 billion to Argentina in 2018 in the largest loan in the institution's history, has begun to lose patience with the lack of structural reforms and hints of debt restructuring by the government. In this critical status , Argentines are looking to the development unconventional oil industry as a possible way out of the economic crisis. In particular, the Vaca Muerta super field has been the focus of attention of international investors, government and citizens for the last decade, being a very promising project not Exempt of environmental and technical challenges.

The energy sector in Argentina: a history of fluctuations

The oil sector in Argentina has more than 100 years of history since oil was discovered in the Patagonian desert in 1907. The geographical difficulties of area - lack of water, distance from Buenos Aires and salty winds of more than 100 km/h - meant that project advanced very slowly until the outbreak of the First World War. The European conflict interrupted coal imports from England, which until then had accounted for 95% of Argentina's energy consumption. business The emergence of oil in the inter-war period as a strategic raw subject commodity revalued the sector, which began to receive huge foreign and domestic investment in the 1920s. By 1921, YPF, the first state-owned oil company in Latin America, was created, with energy self-sufficiency as its main goal goal. The country's political upheaval during the so-called Década Infame (1930-43) and the effects of the Great Depression damaged the incipient oil sector. The years of Perón's government saw a timid take-off of the oil industry with the opening of the sector to foreign companies and the construction of the first oil pipelines. In 1958, Arturo Frondizi became President of Argentina and sanctioned the Hydrocarbons Law of 1958, achieving an impressive development of the sector in only 4 years with an immense policy of public and private investment that multiplied oil production threefold, extended the network of gas pipelines and generalised access to natural gas for industry and households. The oil regime in Argentina kept the ownership of resource in the hands of the state, but allowed the participation of private and foreign companies in the production process.

Since the successful 1960s in subject oil, the sector entered a period of relative stagnation in parallel with Argentina's chaotic politics and Economics at the time. The 1970s was a complex journey in the desert for YPF, mired in huge debt and unable to increase production and secure the longed-for self-sufficiency.

The so-called Washington Consensus and the arrival of Carlos Menem to the presidency in 1990 saw the privatisation of YPF and the fragmentation of the state monopoly over the sector. By 1998, YPF was fully privatised under the ownership of Repsol, which controlled 97.5% of its capital. It was in the period 1996-2003 that peak oil production was reached, exporting natural gas to Chile, Brazil and Uruguay, and exceeding 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day in net exports.

However, a turnaround soon began in the face of state intervention in the market. Domestic consumption with fixed sales prices for oil producers was less attractive than the export market, encouraging private companies to overproduce in order to export oil and increase revenues exponentially. With the rise in oil prices of the so-called "commodity super-cycle" during the first decade of this century, the price differential between exports and domestic sales widened, creating a real incentive to focus on production. Exploration was thus left in the background, as domestic consumption grew rapidly due to tax incentives and a near horizon was foreseen without the possibility of exports and, therefore, lower income from the increase in reserves.

The exit from the 2001 crisis took place in a context of fiscal and trade surpluses, which allowed the country to regain the confidence of international creditors and reduce the volume of public debt. It was precisely the energy sector that was the main driver of this recovery, accounting for more than half of the trade surplus in the period 2004-2006 and one of Argentina's main sources of fiscal revenue. However, as mentioned above, this production was not sustainable due to the existence of a fiscal framework that distorted oil companies' incentives in favour of immediate consumption without investing in exploration. By 2004, a new tariff was applied to crude oil exports that floated on the basis of the international price of crude, reaching 45% if the price was above 45 dollars. The excessively rentier approach of Néstor Kirchner's presidency ended up dilapidating the sector's investment incentives, although it is true that they allowed for a spectacular increase in derived fiscal revenues, boosting Argentina's generous social and debt repayment plans. sample As a good illustration of this decline in exploration, in the 1980s more than 100 exploratory wells were drilled annually, in 1990 the figure exceeded 90, and by 2010 the figure was 26 wells per year. This figure is particularly dramatic if one takes into account the dynamics that the oil and gas sector tends to follow, with large investments in exploration and infrastructure in times of high prices, as was the case between 2001-2014. 

In 2011, after a decade of debate on the oil sector in Argentina, President Cristina Fernández decided to expropriate 51 per cent of the shares of YPF held by Repsol, citing reasons of energy sovereignty and the decline of the sector. This decision followed the line taken by Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales in 2006 to increase the state's weight in the hydrocarbons sector at a time of electoral success for the Latin American left. The expropriation took place in the same year that Argentina became a net energy importer and coincided with the finding of the large shale reserves in Neuquén precisely by YPF, now known as Vaca Muerta. YPF at the time was the direct producer of approximately one third of Argentina's total volume. The expropriation took place at the same time as the imposition of the "cepo cambiario", a system of capital controls that made private foreign investment in the sector even less attractive. Not only was the country unable to recover its energy self-sufficiency, but it also entered a period of intense imports that hampered access to dollars and produced a large part of the macroeconomic imbalance of the current economic crisis.

The arrival of Mauricio Macri in 2015 heralded a new phase for the sector with policies more favourable to private initiative. One of the first measures was to establish a fixed price at the "wellhead" of the Vaca Muerta oil fields with the idea of encouraging the start-up of projects. As the economic crisis worsened, the unpopular measure of increasing electricity and fuel prices by more than 30 per cent was chosen, generating enormous discontent in the context of a constant devaluation of the Argentine peso and the rising cost of living. The energy portfolio was marked by enormous instability, with three different ministers who generated enormous legal insecurity by constantly changing the hydrocarbons regulatory framework . Renewable solar and wind energy, boosted by a new energy plan and greater liberalisation of investment, managed to double their energy contribution during Mauricio Macri's time in the Casa Rosada.

Alberto Fernández's first years have been marked by unconditional support for the hydrocarbons sector, with Vaca Muerta being the central axis of his energy policy, announcing the 2020-2023 Gas Plan that will subsidise part of the investment in the sector. On the other hand, despite the context of the health emergency, 39 renewable energy projects were installed in 2020, with an installed capacity of around 1.5 GW, an increase of almost 60% over the previous year. In any case, the continuity of this growth will depend on access to foreign currency in the country, which is essential to be able to buy panels and windmills from abroad. The boom in renewable energy in Argentina led the Danish company Vestas to install the first windmill assembly plant in the country in 2018, which already has several plants producing solar panels to supply domestic demand.

Characteristics of Vaca Muerta

Vaca Muerta is not a field from a technical point of view, it is a sedimentary training of enormous magnitude with dispersed deposits of natural gas and oil that can only be exploited with unconventional techniques: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. These characteristics make Vaca Muerta a complex activity, which requires attracting as much talent as possible, especially from international players with experience in the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons. Likewise, conditions in the province of Neuquén are complex given the scarcity of rainfall and the importance of the fruit and vegetable industry, in direct competition with the water resources required for the exploitation of unconventional oil.

Since finding, the potential of Vaca Muerta has been compared to that of the Eagle Ford basin in the United States, which produces more than one million barrels per day. Evidently, the Neuquén region has neither Texas' oil business ecosystem nor its fiscal facilities, making what might be geologically similar in reality two totally different stories. In December 2020, Vaca Muerte produced 124,000 barrels of oil per day, a figure that is expected to gradually increase over the course of this year to 150,000 barrels per day, about 30% of the 470,000 barrels per day Argentina produced in 2020. Natural gas follows a slower process, pending the development of infrastructure that will allow the transport of large volumes of gas to consumption and export centres. In this regard, Fernández announced in November 2020 the Plan for the Promotion of Argentine Gas Production 2020-2023, with which the Casa Rosada seeks to save dollars by substituting imports. The plan facilitates the acquisition of dollars for investors and improves the maximum selling price of natural gas by almost 50%, to 3.70 dollars per mbtu, in the hope of receiving the necessary investment, estimated at 6.5 billion dollars, to achieve gas self-sufficiency. Argentina already has the capacity to export natural gas to Chile, Uruguay and Brazil through pipelines. Unfortunately, the floating vessel exporting natural gas from Vaca Muerte left Argentina at the end of 2020 after YPF unilaterally broke the ten-year contract with the vessel's owner, Exmar, citing economic difficulties, limiting the capacity to sell natural gas outside the continent.  

One of the great advantages of Vaca Muerta is the presence of international companies with experience in the aforementioned US unconventional oil basins. The post-2014 learning curve of the US fracking sector is being applied in Vaca Muerta, which has seen drilling costs fall by 50% since 2014 while gaining in productivity. The influx of US capital may accelerate if Joe Biden's administration fiscally and environmentally restricts oil activities in the country, from agreement with its environmentalist diary . Currently the main operator in Vaca Muerta after YPF is Chevron, followed by Tecpetrol, Wintershell, Shell, Total and Pluspetrol, in an ecosystem with 18 oil companies working in different blocks.

Vaca Muerta as a national strategy

It is clear that achieving energy self-sufficiency will help Argentina's macroeconomic problems, the main headache for its citizens in recent years. No Exempt of environmental risk, Vaca Muerta could be a lifeline for a country whose international credibility is at an all-time low. Alberto Fernández's pro-hydrocarbon narrative follows the line of his Mexican counterpart Andrés guide López Obrador, with whom he intends to lead a new moderate left-wing axis in Latin America. The spectre of the nationalisation of YPF by the now vice-president Cristina Fernández, as well as the recent breach of contract with Exmar, continue to generate uncertainty among international investors. status Moreover, the poor financial performance of YPF, the main player in Vaca Muerta, with a debt of more than 8 billion dollars, is a major drag on the country's oil prospects. Similarly, Vaca Muerta is far from realising its potential, with significant but insufficient production to guarantee revenues that would bring about a radical change in Argentina's economic and social status . In order to guarantee its success, a context of favourable oil prices and the fluid arrival of foreign investors are needed. Two variables that cannot be taken for granted given Argentina's political context and the increasingly strong decarbonisation policy of traditional oil companies.

The big question now is how to reconcile the large-scale fossil fuel development with Argentina's latest commitments on climate change subject : to reduce CO2 emissions by 19% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Similarly, the promising trajectory of renewable energy development during Mauricio Macri's presidency may lose momentum if the oil and gas sector attracts public and private investment, crowding out solar and wind.

Vaca Muerta is likely to advance slowly but surely as international oil prices stabilise upwards. The possibility of generating foreign currency and boosting a Economics on the verge of collapse should not be underestimated, but expecting Vaca Muerta to solve Argentina's problems on its own can only end in a new episode of frustration in the southern country.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Latin America

Could Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy?

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors.

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors.

Spain was an early developer of solar energy, but it didn't keep the pace with the required investments. The effort in renewables should mean a clear increase in installed capacity for solar energy. A partnership with Morocco, gifted with even stronger solar resources, could benefit both countries in producing and marketing this particular renewable energy. Spain and Morocco are about to have a third electricity interconnector.



Spain has a lot of potential in solar energy. Currently, its Germany who produces more photovoltaic electricity than Spain, Portugal or Italy in Europe. In fact, in 2019, Germany produced five times more solar energy than Spain (50 GW of installed capacity versus just 11 GW). This fact has little to do with the raw solar energy that the countries receive, considering that Spain is located in Southern Europe.

For how much solar irradiation Spain receives, the solar energy it produces is scarce. Up until 2013, the installed capacity for solar energy grew rapidly. However, since then, the country has fallen behind many other European countries in the development of capacity. The country initially had a leading role in the development of solar power, with low prices that encouraged a boom in solar power installed capacity. However, because of the 2008 financial crisis, the Spanish government drastically cut its subsidies for solar power and limited any future increases in capacity to 500 MW per year. Between 2012 and 2016, Spain was left waiting while other countries developed. The cost of this was high, seeing as Spain lost much of its world leading status to countries such as Germany, China and Japan.

However, as a legacy from Spain's earlier development of solar power, in 2018 Spain became the first country in the world using concentrated solar power system (CSP), which accounts for almost a third of solar power installed capacity in the country. Nevertheless, in 2019, Spain installed 4,752 MW of photovoltaic solar energy, which situated Spain as the sixth leading country in the world. As of 2019, Spain has a total installed solar generation capacity of 11,015 MW: 8,711 of photovoltaic energy and 2,304 of solar thermal.

Photovoltaic solar (PV) energy is usually used for smaller-scale electricity projects. The devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally on semiconductors, converting it into usable electricity that can be stored in a solar battery of sent to the electric grid. Solar thermal energy (STE) capture is usually used for electricity production on a massive scale, for its use in the industry.

Low solar energy generated in Spain

By 2020, Spain national system has reached the maximum generation capacity ever recorded: 110,000 MW of wind energy, photovoltaic (PV), hydraulic, conventional thermal power (natural gas, coal, fuel oil), nuclear, etc. This amount of energy contrasts with the increasingly thin demand of power, which in 2019 was 40,000 MW (40 GW). According to the data published by network Electrica de España, the renewable quota of energy amount to a total of 55,247 MW (55 GW out of 110 GW). This 55 GW is composed of 46% corresponding to wind energy, 16% are photovoltaic and the rest (38%) corresponds to other renewable technologies. During 2019, the national renewable production has been 97,826 GW-hour, which represents 37.5% of the kilowatt-hour that the country demanded last year (the remaining 62.5% has been produced in nuclear power plants or facilities that burn fossil fuels).

So, we can clearly see that the percentage of solar energy is extremely low (3,5% solar photovoltaic and 2% solar thermic of the total kilowatts-hour generated). Nevertheless, Spain has the capability to increase these numbers. According to a report on power potential by country published by the World Bank, Spain has a long-term energy availability of solar resource at any location (average theoretical potential) of 4.575 kilowatts-hour per square metre (kWh/m2). This potential is indicated by the variable of global horizontal irradiation (GHI) on the country, which will vary according to the local factors of the land. Furthermore, the power output achievable by a typical PV system, taking into consideration the theoretical potential and the local factors of the land (average practical potential) is 4.413 kWh, excluding areas due to physical/technical constraints (rugged terrain, urbanized/industrial areas, forests...) PV power output (PVOUT), power generated per unit of the installed PV capacity over the long-term, is an average of 1.93 kilowatt-hours per installed kilowatt-peak of the system capacity (kWh/kWp). It varies according to the season from 1.43 to 2.67 kWh/kWp. Finally, it's worth mentioning that Spain's electric consumption (balance of production and external trade) in 2019 was of 238 TWh (= 2.38 x1011 kWh).

The colours indicate the average solar radiation; the black dots indicate places where there could be a greater use of solar energy [Mlino76].

Morocco's solar energy plan

Africa is the continent that receives most solar irradiance, thus being the optimal continent to exploit solar energy. In this regard, Morocco is already aiming to take advantage of this natural resource. At first, this country launched a solar energy plan with investment of USD 9 billion, aiming to generate 2,000 MW (or 2 GW) of solar power by 2020. It has developed mega-scale solar power projects at five locations; at the Sahara (Laayoune), Western Sahara (Boujdour), South of Agadir (Tarfaya), Ain Beni Mathar and Ouarzazate. But Morocco is planning to go further. Morocco announced during COP21 that it planned to increase the renewables capacity to reach 52% of the total by 2030 (20% solar, 20% wind, 12% hydro). To meet the 2030 target, the country aims to add around 10 GW of renewable capacities between 2018 and 2030, consisting of 4,560 MW of solar, 4,200 MW of wind, and 1,330 MW of hydropower capacity. The Moroccan Agency for Renewable Energy revealed that by the end of 2019, Morocco's renewable energy reached 3,685 megawatts (MW), including 700 MW of solar energy, 1,215 MW of wind power, and 1,770 MW of hydroelectricity.

Now, what would happen if Spain partnered up with Morocco? Morocco is the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe. In fact, it's through Spain that these two electricity interconnectors arrive to Europe. The first subsea interconnection, with a technical capacity of 700 MW, was commissioned in 1997 and started commercial operation in 1998. The second was commissioned in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, a new interconnection had been commissioned. This should not only reduce the price of electricity in the Spanish market but it should also allow the integration of renewable energy, mainly photovoltaic, into European electricity system.

Moreover, network Electrica de España (REE) stated that a collaborations agreement between the Spain and Morocco had been formed "to establish a strategic partnership on energy, whose objectives will be focused on the integration of networks and energy markets, the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency". But the possibilities don't stop there. If both countries further develop their solar energy capacities, they could jointly provide enough electricity to sustain Europe, through sustainable and renewable resources.

Categories Global Affairs: European Union Africa Energy, resources and sustainability Articles

US LNG sales to its neighbours and exports from Latin American and Caribbean countries to Europe and Asia open up new prospects

Not relying on pipelines, but being able to buy or sell natural gas also to distant or land-locked countries improves the energy prospects of many nations. The success of fracking has generated a surplus of gas that the US has begun to sell in many parts of the world, including to its hemispheric neighbours, who in turn have more choice provider. At the same time, being able to submit gas in tankers has expanded the customer portfolio of Peru and above all Trinidad and Tobago, which until last year were the only two American countries, apart from the US, with liquefaction plants. Argentina joined them in 2019, and Mexico in 2020 has promoted investments to join this revolution.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) freighter [Pline].

▲ A liquefied natural gas (LNG) freighter [Pline].

article / Ann Callahan

The United States is connected by pipeline only to Canada and Mexico, but is selling gas by ship to some thirty other countries (Spain, for example, has become a major buyer). In 2019, the US exported 47.5 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which one-fifth went to American neighbours, according to agreement with report BP 2020 on the sector.

Eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean already have regasification plants for gas arriving by cargo ship in liquid form: there are three plants in Mexico and Brazil; two in Argentina, Chile, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, and one each in Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Panama, according to the annual summary association of LNG importing countries. In addition to the US, LNG also arrives in these countries from Norway, Russia, Angola, Nigeria and Indonesia. Two countries export LNG to various parts of the world: Trinidad and Tobago, which has three liquefaction plants, and Peru, which has one (another became operational in Argentina last year).

In an attempt to mitigate the risk of electricity shortages due to a decrease in hydropower production due to drought or other difficulties in accessing energy sources, many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are turning to LNG. As a cleaner energy source, it is also an attractive option for countries already struggling with climate change. In addition, gas financial aid will help overcome the discontinuity of alternative sources, such as wind and solar power.

In the case of small island countries, such as those in the Caribbean, which for the most part lack energy sources, cooperation programmes for the development of LNG terminals can provide them with a certain independence from certain oil supplies, such as the influence exerted on them by Chavista Venezuela through Petrocaribe.

LNG is natural gas that has been liquefied (cooled to about -162°C) for storage and transport. The volume of natural gas in its liquid state is reduced by approximately 600 times compared to its gaseous state. The process makes it possible and efficient to transport it to places that cannot be reached by pipelines. It is also much more environmentally friendly, as the carbon intensity of natural gas is about 30% less than that of diesel or other heavy fuels.

The global natural gas market has evolved rapidly in recent years. Global LNG capacities are expected to continue to grow until 2035, led by Qatar, Australia and the US. According to BP's report on the sector, in 2019 the share of gas in primary energy reached an all-time high of 24.2%. Much of the growth in gas production in 2019, when it increased by 3.4%, was due to additional LNG exports. LNG exports last year grew by 12.7% to 485.1 billion cubic metres.


Liquefaction and regasification plants in the Americas [report GIIGNL].



While the United States lagged behind in gas production at the beginning of the first decade of this century, the shale boom since 2009 has led the US to exponentially increase gas extraction and play a key role in the global trade of the liquefied product. With the relatively easy transportation of LNG, the US has been able to export and ship it to many parts of the world, with Latin America, due to its proximity, being one of the regions that is feeling the shift the most. Of the 47.5 billion cubic metres of LNG exported by the US in 2019, 9.7 billion went to Latin America; the main destinations were Mexico (3.9 billion), Chile (2.3 billion), Brazil (1.5 billion) and Argentina (1 billion).

While the region has promising export potential, given its proven natural gas reserves, demand exceeds production and it must import. Venezuela is the country with the largest reserves in Latin America (although its gas power is smaller than its oil power), but its hydrocarbon sector is in decline and the largest production in 2019 came from Argentina, an emerging shale country, followed by Trinidad and Tobago. Brazil matched Venezuela's output, followed by Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. In total, the region produced 207.6 billion cubic metres, while its consumption was 256.1 billion.

Some countries receive gas by pipeline, as is the case of Mexico and Argentina and Brazil: the former receives gas from the US and the latter from Bolivia. But the growing option is to install regasification plants to receive liquefied gas; such projects require some investment, usually foreign. The largest exporter of LNG to the region in 2019 was the US, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, which, due to its low domestic consumption, exports practically all its production: of its 17 billion cubic metres of LNG, 6.1 billion went to Latin American countries. The third largest exporter is Peru, which sent its 5.2 billion cubic metres to Asia and Europe (it did not sell on the continent itself). Argentina joined exports in 2019 for the first time, although with a leave amount, 120 million cubic metres, almost all destined for Brazil.

The region imported a total of 19.7 billion cubic metres of LNG in 2019. The main buyers were Mexico (6.6 billion cubic metres), Chile (3.3 billion), Brazil (3.2 billion) and Argentina (1.7 billion).

Some of those that imported smaller quantities then re-exported part of the supplies, as did the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, generally with Panama as the main destination.




Tables extracted from report Statistical Review of World Energy 2020 [BP].

By country

Mexico is the largest importer of LNG in Latin America; its supplies come mainly from the US. For a long time, Mexico has relied on gas shipments from its northern neighbour via pipelines. However, the LNG development has opened up new prospects, as the country's location can help it boost both capacities: improved pipeline connections with the US may allow Mexico to have a gas surplus at Pacific terminals for re-exporting LNG to Asia, complementing the absence of liquefaction plants on the US West Coast for the time being.

The possibility of re-exporting from Mexico's Pacific coast to the large and growing Asian LNG market - without the need for tankers to pass through the Panama Canal - is a major attraction. agreement The US Energy department granted in early 2019 two authorisations to Mexico's project Energía Costa Azul to re-export US-derived natural gas in the form of LNG to those countries that do not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with Washington, as stated in the 2020 report of the group International Importers of Liquefied Natural Gas(GIIGNL).

For the past decade, Argentina has been importing LNG from the US; however, in recent years it has reduced its purchases by more than 20 per cent as domestic gas production has increased thanks to the exploitation of Vaca Muerta. These fields have also allowed it to reduce gas purchases from neighbouring Bolivia and sell more gas, also via pipeline, to its neighbours Chile and Brazil. In addition, in 2019 it will begin exporting LNG from the Bahía Blanca plant.

With Argentina pumping gas to neighbouring Chile, in 2019 Chilean LNG imports declined to their lowest Degree in three years, although it remains one of the important buyers in Latin America, having switched Trinidad and Tobago to the US as its preferred provider . It should be noted, however, that Argentina's export capacity depends on the levels of domestic flows, especially during winter seasons when widespread heating is a necessity for Argentines.

Over the past decade, Brazil' s LNG imports have varied significantly from year to year. However, it is projected to be more consistent in its reliance on LNG until at least the next decade, as renewable energy is developed. In Brazil, natural gas is largely used to back up Brazilian hydropower.

In addition to Brazil, Colombia also considers LNG as an advantageous resource to back up its hydroelectric system in low periods. On its Pacific coast, Colombia is currently planning a second regasification terminal. Ecopetrol, the state hydrocarbon business , will allocate USD 500 million to unconventional gas projects in addition to oil. Along with the government's authorisation to allow fracking, currently stagnant reserves are projected to increase.

Bolivia also has significant natural gas production potential and is the country in the region whose Economics is most dependent on this sector. It has the advantage of existing infrastructure and the size of neighbouring gas markets; however, it faces skill production from Argentina and Brazil. Also, being a landlocked country, it is limited in the commercialisation of LNG.

Although Peru is the seventh largest producer of natural gas in the region, it has become the second largest exporter of LNG. Lower domestic consumption, compared to other neighbouring markets, has led it to develop LNG exports, reinforcing its profile as a nation focused on Asia.

For its part, Trinidad and Tobago has adapted its gas production to its status as an island country, basing its hydrocarbon exports on tankers, which gives it access to distant markets. It is the leading exporter in the region and the only one with customers in all continents.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in offshore wells puts the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighbouring Guyana.

The intuition has proved to be correct, and explorations carried out under Suriname's territorial waters, together with the successful hydrocarbon reserves that are being exploited in Guyana's maritime borders, have found abundant oil. The finding could be a decisive boost for the development of what is, after Guyana, the second poorest country in South America, but it could also be an opportunity, as with its neighbour, to accentuate the economic and political corruption that has been hindering the progress of the population.

Suriname's presidential palace in the country's capital, Paramaribo [Ian Mackenzie].

Suriname's presidential palace in the country's capital, Paramaribo [Ian Mackenzie].

article / Álvaro de Lecea

So far this year, drilling in two offshore fields in Suriname has been positive result , confirming the existence of "significant" oil in block 58, operated by France's Total, in partnership with US-based Apache. Everything indicates that the same success could be obtained in block 52, operated by the also American ExxonMobil and the Malaysian Petronas, which were pioneers in prospecting in Surinamese waters with operations since 2016.

Both blocks adjoin the fields under the waters of neighbouring Guyana, where it is currently estimated that there are some 3.2 billion barrels of extractable oil. In the case of Suriname, exploration in the first viable field, Maka Central-1, discovered in January 2020, indicates 300 million barrels, but estimates from Sapakara West-1, discovered in April, and subsequent planned exploration, have yet to be added. It is estimated that some 15 billion barrels of oil reserves may exist in the Guyana-Suriname basin.

Until this new oil era in the Guianas (the former British and Dutch Guianas; the French Guianas remains an overseas dependency of France), Suriname was considered to have reserves of 99 million barrels, which at the current rate of exploitation left two decades to deplete. In 2016, the country produced just 16,400 barrels per day.

status political, economic and social

With just under 600,000 inhabitants, Suriname is the least populated country in South America. Its Economics is heavily dependent on the export of metals and minerals, especially bauxite. The fall in commodity prices since 2014 has particularly affected the country's accounts. GDP contracted by 3.4% in 2015 and by 5.6% in 2016. Although the trend then turned positive again, the IMF forecasts a 4.9% drop in GDP for 2020, as a result of the global crisis caused by Covid-19.

Since gaining independence from the Netherlands in 1975, its weak democracy has suffered three coups d'état. Two of them were led by the same person: Desi Bouterse, the country's president until this July. Bouterse staged a coup in 1980 and remained in power indirectly until 1988. During those years, he kept Suriname under a dictatorship. In 1990 he staged another coup d'état, although this time he resigned the presidency. He was accused of the 1982 murder of 15 political opponents, in a long judicial process that finally ended in December 2019 with a twenty-year prison sentence, which is now being appealed by Bouterse. He has also been convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands, for which the resulting international arrest warrant prevents him from leaving Suriname. His son Dino has also been convicted of drug and arms trafficking and is in prison in the United States. Bouterse's Suriname has come to be presented as the paradigm of the mafia state.

In 2010 Desi Bouterse won the elections as candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP); in 2015 he was re-elected for another five years. In the 25 May elections, despite some controversial measures to limit the options of the civil service examination, he lost to Chan Santokhi, leader of the Progressive Reform Party (VHP). He tried to delay the counting and validation of votes, citing the health emergency caused by the coronavirus, but the new National Assembly was finally constituted at the end of June and is due to appoint the country's new president in July.


Total's operations in Surinamese and Guyanese waters [Total].

Total's operations in Surinamese and Guyanese waters [Total].


Relationship with Venezuela

Suriname intends to use the prospect of the oil bonanza to strengthen Staatsolie, the state oil company. In January, before the Covid-19 crisis became widespread, it announced purpose to expand its presence in the bond market in 2020 and also, conditions permitting, to list its shares in London or New York. This would serve to raise up to $2 billion to finance the national oil company's exploration campaign over the next few years.

On the other hand, Venezuela's territorial claims against Guyana, which affect the Essequibo - the western half of the former British colony - and which are being studied by the International Court of Justice, include part of the maritime space in which Guyana is extracting oil, but do not affect the case of Suriname, whose delimitations are outside the scope of this long-standing dispute.

Venezuela and Suriname have maintained special relations during Chavismo and while Desi Bouterse has been in power. On occasions, a certain connection has been made between drug trafficking under the protection of the Chavista authorities and that attributed to Bouterse. The offer made by Bouterse's son to Hezbollah to have training camps in Suriname, for which he was arrested in 2015 in Panama at the request of the United States and tried in New York, can be understood in light of the relationship between Chavism and Hezbollah, to whose operatives Caracas has provided passports to facilitate their movements. Suriname has supported Venezuela in regional forums at times of international pressure against the regime of Nicolás Maduro. In addition, the country has increasingly strengthened its relations with Russia and China, from which in December 2019 it secured the commitment of a new credit .

With the political change of the last elections, Maduro's Venezuela has in principle lost a close ally, while gaining an oil competitor (at least as long as Venezuelan oil exploitation remains at a low level).

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO].

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO].

ESSAY / Alejandro J. Alfonso

In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in an effort to raise awareness and induce action to combat the effects of climate change and global warming. COP25 is another conference in a long line of efforts to combat climate change, including the Kyoto Protocol of 2005 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. However, what the International Community has failed to do in these conferences and agreements is address the issue of those displaced by the adverse effects of Climate Change, what some call "Climate Refugees".


In 1951, six years after the conclusion of the Second World War and three years after the creation of the State of Israel, a young organisation called the United Nations held an international convention on the status of refugees. According to Article 1 section A of this convention, the status of refugee would be given to those already recognized as refugees by earlier conventions, dating back to the League of Nations, and those who were affected "as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion...". However, as this is such a narrow definition of a refugee, the UN reconvened in 1967 to remove the geographical and time restrictions found in the 1951 convention[1], thus creating the 1967 Protocol.

Since then, the United Nations General Assembly and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked together to promote the rights of refugees and to continue the fight against the root causes of refugee movements. [2] In 2016, the General Assembly made the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, followed by the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, in which four objectives were established: "(i) ease pressures on host countries; (ii) enhance refugee self-reliance; (iii) expand access to third country solutions; and (iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity". [3] Defined as 'interlinked and interdependent objectives', the Global Compact aims to unite the political will of the International Community and other major stakeholders in order to have 'equitalized, sustained and predictable contributions' towards refugee relief efforts. Taking a holistic approach, the Compact recognizes that various factors may affect refugee movements, and that several interlinked solutions are needed to combat these root causes.

While the UN and its supporting bodies have made an effort to expand international protection of refugees, the definition on the status of refugees remains largely untouched since its initial applications in 1951 and 1967. "While not in themselves causes of refugee movements, climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements".3 The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the increase of the average temperature of the planet, commonly known as Global Warming, can lead to an increase in the intensity and occurrence of natural disasters[4]. Furthermore, this is reinforced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which has found that the number of those displaced by natural disasters is higher than the number of those displaced by violence or conflict on a yearly basis[5], as shown in Table 1. In an era in which there is great preoccupation and worry concerning the adverse effects of climate change and global warming, the UN has not expanded its definition of refugee to encapsulate those who are displaced due to natural disasters caused by, allegedly, climate change.


Table 1 / Global Internal Displacement Database, from IDMC



This present paper will be focused on the study of Central America and Southeast Asia as my study subjects. The first reason for which these two regions have been selected is that both are the first and second most disaster prone areas in the world[6], respectively. Secondly, the countries found within these areas can be considered as developing states, with infrastructural, economic, and political issues that can be aggravating factors. Finally, both have been selected due to the hegemonic powers within those hemispheres: the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. Both of these powers have an interest in how a 'refugee' is defined due to concerns over these two regions, and worries over becoming receiving countries to refugee flows.

Central America

As aforementioned, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to increase due to irregularities brought upon by an increase in the average temperature of the ocean. Figure 1 shows that climate driven disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean have slowly been increasing since the 1970s, along with the world average, and are expected to increase further in the years to come. In a study by Omar D. Bello, the rate of climate related disasters in Central America increased by 326% from the year 1970 to 1999, while from 2000 to 2009 the total number of climate disasters were 143 and 148 in Central America and the Caribbean respectively[7]. On the other hand, while research conducted by Holland and Bruyère has not concluded an increase in the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of Category 4-5 hurricanes in the area[8].



This increase in natural disasters, and their intensity, can have a hard effect on those countries which have a reliance on agriculture. Agriculture as a percentage of GDP has been declining within the region in recent years due to policies of diversification of economies. However, in the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua the percentage share of agriculture is still slightly higher than 10%, while in Guatemala and Belize agriculture is slightly below 10% of GDP share[9]. Therefore, we can expect high levels of emigration from the agricultural sectors of these countries, heading toward higher elevations, such as the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Furthermore, we can expect mass migration movements from Belize, which is projected to be partially submerged by 2100 due to rising sea levels[10].


Figure 2 / Climate Risk Index 2020, from German Watch


Southeast Asia

The second region of concern is Southeast Asia, the region most affected by natural disasters, according to the research by Bello, mentioned previously. The countries of Southeast Asia are ranked in the top ten countries projected to be at most risk due to climate change, shown in Figure 2 above[11]. Southeast Asia is home to over 650 million people, about 8% of total world population, with 50% living in urban areas[12]. Recently, the OECD concluded that while the share in GDP of agriculture and fisheries has declined in recent years, there is still a heavy reliance on these sectors to push economy in the future[13]. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank carried out a study analysing the possible cost of climate change on several countries in the region. It concluded that a possible loss of 1.8% in the GDP of six countries could occur by 2050[14]. These six countries had a high reliance on agriculture as part of the GDP, for example Bangladesh with around 20% of GDP and 48% of the workforce being dedicated to agricultural goods. Therefore, those countries with a high reliance on agricultural goods or fisheries as a proportion of GDP can be expected to be the sources of large climate migration in the future, more so than in the countries of Central America.

One possible factor is the vast river system within the area, which is susceptible to yearly flooding. With an increase in average water levels, we can expect this flooding to worsen gradually throughout the years. In the case of Bangladesh, 28% of the population lives on a coastline which sits below sea level[15]. With trends of submerged areas, Bangladesh is expected to lose 11% of its territory due to rising sea levels by 2050, affecting approximately 15 million inhabitants[16][17]. Scientists have reason to believe that warmer ocean temperatures will not only lead to rising sea levels, but also an intensification and increase of frequency in typhoons and monsoons[18], such as is the case with hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

Expected Destinations

Taking into account the analysis provided above, there are two possible migration movements: internal or external. In respect to internal migration, climate migrants will begin to move towards higher elevations and temperate climates to avoid the extreme weather that forced their exodus. The World Bank report, cited above, marked two locations within Central America that fulfil these criteria: the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, climate migrants will move inwards in an attempt to flee the rising waters, floods, and storms.

However, it is within reason to believe that there will be significant climate migration flows towards the USA and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Both the United States and China are global powers, and as such have a political stability and economic prowess that already attracts normal migration flows. For those fleeing the effects of climate change, this stability will become even more so attractive as a future home. For those in Southeast Asia, China becomes a very desired destination. With the second largest land area of any country, and with a large central zone far from coastal waters, China provides a territorial sound destination. As the hegemon in Asia, China could easily acclimate these climate migrants, sending them to regions that could use a larger agricultural workforce, if such a place exists within China.

In the case of Central America, the United States is already a sought-after destination for migrant movements, being the first migrant destination for all Central American countries except Nicaragua, whose citizens migrate in greater numbers to Costa Rica[19]. With the world's largest economy, and with the oldest democracy in the Western hemisphere, the United States is a stable destination for any refugee. In regard to relocation plans for areas affected by natural disasters, the United States also has shown it is capable of effectively moving at-risk populations, such as the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program in the state of Louisiana[20].


While some would opine that 'climate migrants' and 'climate refugees' are interchangeable terms, they are unfortunately not. Under international law, there does not exist 'climate refugees'. The problem with 'climate refugees' is that there is currently no political will to change the definition of refugee to include this new category among them. In the case of the United States, section 101(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the definition of a refugee follows that of the aforementioned 1951 Geneva convention[21], once again leaving out the supposed 'climate refugees'. The Trump administration has an interest in maintaining this status quo, especially in regard to its hard stance in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. If a resolution should pass the United Nations Security Council, the Trump administration would have no choice but to change section 101(42) of the INA, thus risking an increased number of asylum applicants to the US. Therefore, it can confidently be projected that the current administration, and possibly future administrations, would utilize the veto power, given to permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on such a resolution.

China, the strongest regional actor in Asia, does not have to worry about displeasing the voter. Rather, they would not allow a redefinition of refugee to pass the UN Security Council for reasons concerning the stability and homogeneity of the country. While China does accept refugees, according to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is fairly low, especially those from the Middle East. This is mostly likely due to the animosity that the Chinese government has for the Muslim population. In fact, the Chinese government has a tense relationship with organised religion in and of itself, but mostly with Islam and Buddhism. Therefore, it is very easy to believe that China would veto a redefinition of refugee to include 'climate refugees', in that that would open its borders to a larger number of asylum seekers from its neighbouring countries. This is especially unlikely when said neighbours have a high concentration of Muslims and Buddhists: Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, and Burma (Myanmar) is 87% Buddhist[22]. Furthermore, both countries have known religious extremist groups that cause instability in civil society, a problem the Chinese government neither needs nor wants.

On the other hand, there is also the theory that the causes of climate migration simply cannot be measured. Natural disasters have always been a part of human history and have been a cause of migration since time immemorial. Therefore, how can we know if migrations are taking place due to climate factors, or due to other aggravating factors, such as political or economic instability? According to a report by the French think tank 'Population and Societies', when a natural disaster occurs, the consequences remain localised, and the people will migrate only temporarily, if they leave the affected zone at all[23]. This is due to the fact that usually that society will bind together, working with familial relations to surpass the event. The report also brings to light an important issue touched upon in the studies mentioned above: there are other factors that play in a migration due to a natural disaster. Véron and Golaz in their report cite that the migration caused by the Ethiopian drought of 1984 was also due in part to bad policies by the Ethiopian government, such as tax measures or non-farming policies.

The lack of diversification of the economies of these countries, and the reliance on agriculture could be such an aggravating factor. Agriculture is very susceptible to changes in climate patterns and are affected when these climate patterns become irregular. This can relate to a change of expected rainfall, whether it be delayed, not the quantity needed, or no rainfall at all. Concerning the rising sea levels and an increase in floods, the soil of agricultural areas can be contaminated with excess salt levels, which would remain even after the flooding recedes. For example, the Sula Valley in Honduras generates 62% of GDP, and about 68% of the exports, but with its rivers and proximity to the ocean, also suffers from occasional flooding. Likewise, Bangladesh's heavy reliance on agriculture, being below sea level, could see salt contamination in its soil in the near future, damaging agricultural property.

Reliance on agriculture alone does not answer why natural disasters could cause large emigration in the region. Bello and Professor Patricia Weiss Fagen[24] find that issues concerning the funding of local relief projects, corruption in local institutions, and general mismanagement of crisis response is another aggravating factor. Usually, forced migration flows finish with a return to the country or area of origin, once the crisis has been resolved. However, when the crisis has continuing effects, such as what happened in Chernobyl, for example, or when the crisis has not been correctly dealt with, this return flow does not occur. For example, in the countries composing the Northern Triangle, there are problems of organised crime which is already a factor for migration flows from the area[25]. Likewise, the failure of Bangladesh and Myanmar to deal with extremist Buddhist movements, or the specific case of the Rohinga Muslims, could inhibit return flows and even encourage leaving the region entirely.

Recommendations and Conclusions

The definition of refugee will not be changed or modified in order to protect climate migrants. That is a political decision by countries who sit at a privileged position of not having to worry about such a crisis occurring in their own countries, nor want to be burdened by those countries who will be affected. Facing this simple reality should help to find a better alternative solution, which is the continuing efforts of the development of nations, in order that they may be self-sufficient, for their sake and the population's sake. This fight does not have to be taken alone, but can be fought together through regional organisations who have a better understanding and grasp of the gravity of the situation, and can create holistic approaches to resolve and prevent these crises.

We should not expect the United Nations to resolve the problem of displacement due to natural disasters. The United Nations focuses on generalized and universal issues, such as that of global warming and climate change, but in my opinion is weak in resolving localized problems. Regional organizations are the correct forum to resolve this grave problem. For Central America, the Organization of American States (OAS) provides a stable forum where these countries may express their concerns with states of North and Latin America. With the re-election of Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong and outspoken authority on issues concerning the protection of Human Rights, the OAS is the perfect forum to protect those displaced by natural disasters in the region. Furthermore, the OAS could work closely with the Inter-American Development Bank, which has the financial support of international actors who are not part of the OAS, such as Japan, Israel, Spain, and China, to establish the necessary political and structural reforms to better implement crisis management responses. This does not exclude the collusion with other international organizations, such as the UN. Interestingly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has a project in the aforementioned Sula Valley to improve infrastructure to deal with the yearly floods[26]

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is another example of an apt regional organisation to deal with the localized issues. Mostly dealing with economic issues, this forum of ten countries could carry out mutual programs in order to protect agricultural territory, or further integrate to allow a diversification of their economies to ease this reliance on agricultural goods. ASEAN could also call forth the ASEAN +3 mechanism, which incorporates China, Japan, and South Korea, to help with the management of these projects, or for financial aid. China should be interested in the latter option, seeing as it can increase its good image in the region, as well as protecting its interest of preventing possible migration flows to its territory. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, offers a good alternative financial source if the ASEAN countries so choose, in order to not have heavy reliance on one country or the other.





Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Trials Global

proposal of a lunar base for obtaining helium, taken from [Christopher Barnatt].

▲ proposal of a lunar base for obtaining helium, taken from [Christopher Barnatt].



[8-page document. downloadin PDF]



The economic interest in space resources, or at least the reasonable expectation of the profitability of obtaining them, goes a long way to explaining the growing involvement of private investment in space travel.

Beyond the commercially strong artificial satellite industry, as well as those serving scientific and defence purposes, where the state sector continues to play a leading role, the possibility of exploiting high-value raw materials present on celestial bodies - from entrance, on the closest asteroids to the Earth and on the Moon - has awakened a kind of gold rush that is fuelling the new space degree program .

The epic of the new space barons - Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos - has captured the public narrative, but alongside them there are other New Space Players, with varied profiles. Behind them all is a growing group of equity partners and restless investors willing to risk assets in the hope of profit.

To talk of space mining fever is certainly exaggerated, as the real economic benefit to be gained from space mining - obtaining platinum, for example, or lunar helium - has yet to be demonstrated. While the technology is becoming cheaper, financially enabling new steps into outer space, bringing tons of materials back to Earth has a cost that in most cases makes the operation less financially meaningful.

It would be enough, however, that in certain situations it would be profitable to increase the number of space missions issue , and it is assumed that this traffic in itself would generate the need for an infrastructure abroad, at least with stations to refuel fuel - so expensive to lift into the sky - manufactured from subject raw materials found in space (the water at the lunar poles could be transformed into propellant). It is this expectation, with some basis in reasonableness, that is fuelling the investments being made.

In turn, increased space activity and the skill to obtain the resources sought project beyond our planet the concepts of geopolitics developed for Earth. The location of countries (there are particularly suitable locations for space launches) and the control of certain routes (the succession of the most convenient flight orbits) are part of the new astro-politics.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Documents from work Global Space

March and April 2020 will be remembered in the oil industry as the months in which the perfect storm occurred: a drop of more than 20% in world demand at the same time as a price war was unleashed that increased the supply of crude oil, generating an unprecedented status of abundance. This status has highlighted the end of OPEC's dominance over the rest of the oil producers and consumers after almost half a century.

Pumping structure in a shale oil field [Pixabay].

▲ Pumping structure in a shale oil field [Pixabay].

ANALYSIS / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

On 8 March, in view of the failure of the so-called group OPEC+ negotiations, Saudi Arabia offered its crude oil at a discount of between 6 and 8 dollars on the international market while announcing an increase in production from 1 April to a record 12 million barrels per day. The Saudi move was imitated by other producers such as Russia, which announced an increase of 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the same date, when the cartel's previous agreements expire. The reaction of the markets was immediate, with a historic drop in prices of more than 30% in all international indices and the opening of headlines announcing the start of a new price war. The oil world was stunned by the collapse in the price of crude oil, which reached historic lows on 30 March, with the price of a barrel of WTI dropping below 20 dollars, a psychological barrier that demonstrated the harshness of the confrontation and the historic consequences it could have for a sector of particular geopolitical sensitivity.

Previous experiences

Saudi Arabia, the world leader in the oil industry because of its vast reserves and huge, export-oriented production, has resorted three times to a price war to obtain commitments from other producers to make supply cuts to stabilise international prices. The oil market, accustomed to an artificially high price, tends to suffer dramatic price declines when supply is unrestricted available . committee Due to the economic and political instability that these prices generate in the producing countries, they usually return quickly to the negotiating table, where Saudi Arabia and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) always await them.

The first experience of this subject took place in 1985, after the Iran-Iraq war and the oil crisis of the 1970s, Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud took the decision to increase production unilaterally in order to recover the market share he had lost to the emergence of new producing regions such as the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. The experience led to a 50% drop in prices after more than a year of unrestricted production, which ended with a agreement in December 1986 by 12 OPEC countries to make the cuts demanded by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

In 1997, in response to Saudi Arabia's concern over the increasing displacement of its oil from US refineries in favour of Venezuelan and Mexican crude, the newly arrived Saudi monarch Abdullah bin Abdulaziz decided to announce in the midst of an OPEC summit in Jakarta that he would proceed to increase production without restrictions. The Saudi strategy did not count on the fact that the following year an economic crisis would break out among emerging markets with particular virulence in Southeast Asia and Russia, which plunged prices by 50% again until a new agreement was reached in April 1999.

With the 21st century, came the oil bonanza with the so-called commodity super cycle (2000-2014) that kept oil prices at unknown levels above 100 dollars between 2008 and 2010-2014. This bonanza made it possible to increase investment in exploration and production, generating new extraction techniques that were previously unknown or simply economically unfeasible. In 2005, the US was experiencing a worrying oil crisis, with production at an all-time low of only 5.2 million bpd compared to 9.6 million bpd in 1970. Moreover, energy dependence of approximately 6 million bpd was being met by increasingly expensive crude oil imports from the Persian Gulf, which after 9/11 was viewed with greater scepticism, and Venezuela, which already had Hugo Chávez as its political leader. goal High oil prices allowed the recovery of previously frustrated ideas such as hydraulic fracturing, which was given massive permits to be developed from 2005 onwards with the aim of mitigating the country's other major energy crisis: the rapid decline in domestic production of natural gas, a much more expensive and difficult commodity for the US to import. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, enabled an unexpected growth in natural gas production, which soon attracted the attention of the US oil sector. By 2008, a variant of fracking could be applied to oil extraction, a technique later called shale, leading to an unprecedented revolution in the United States that increased the country's production by more than 5 million barrels per day in the period 2008-2014. The change in the US energy landscape was such that in 2015 Barack Obama withdrew a 1975 law that prohibited the US from exporting domestically produced oil.

The Saudi reaction was swift, and at OPEC's Vienna headquarters in November 2014, it launched a new campaign of unrestricted production that would allow the Kingdom to recover part of its market share. The effects on international markets were more dramatic than ever, with a 50% drop in price in just 7 months. Multinational oil companies (IOCs) and national oil companies (NOCs) dramatically reduced their profits and were forced to make cuts not seen since the beginning of the century. Exporting countries also suffered the effects of lower fiscal revenues with many emerging markets plunged into unmanageable fiscal deficits, inflation and even recession, with Venezuela in particular sliding into the socio-economic chaos we know today. To Saudi Arabia's despair, the US shale industry showed unexpected resilience by maintaining production at 4 million barrels per day for 2016 from a peak of 5 million in 2014. Saudi Arabia did not understand that shale oil, unlike conventional oil, was not a mature industry, but an expanding one and development. US producers managed to increase the oil recovery rate from 5% to 12% between 2008-2016, the equivalent of increasing productivity by 2.4 times. In addition, the elimination of less competitive companies allowed for a reduction in the cost of services and easier access to transportation infrastructure. The nature of shale, with wells maturing in 18 months to 3 years, compared to 30 years or more for a conventional well, allowed production to be shut in for a short enough period of time to minimise the impact of lower prices, opting to keep the most competitive wells. Saudi Arabia gave up and opted for a 180 degree turnaround Degrees in its strategy, although it did manage to bring Russia to the negotiating table. The longest price war in history, after almost 22 months, ended with an unprecedented agreement among OPEC countries with the incorporation of Russia and its sphere of energy influence, group known as OPEC+. A Russia wounded by international sanctions and the weakness of its currency had given in to Saudi Arabia, which, however, had not managed to defeat the US shale oil revolution.



North American shale production has not stopped growing, and despite its effectiveness, it is the only region in the world with a similar industry, growing at a rate of more than one million barrels per day per year. This status has provided the US with robust energy security as it is not dependent on imports of Venezuelan or Gulf crude. The country achieved positive net oil exports at the end of 2019 for the first time in more than half a century, in addition to being a net exporter of natural gas, coal and refined products. Much of the Trump administration's geostrategic retreat in the Middle East is a response to the country's growing energy independence, which reduces its interests in the region.

The breakdown of group OPEC+:

As mentioned, during the first week of March, OPEC+ met in Vienna seeking a agreement for a further cut of some 1.8 million barrels per day to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine in China. The unease among producers was evident, having executed a similar cut in December 2019. Saudi Arabia was trying to share out as much of the production cuts as possible when Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said "niet", citing economic solvency for a drop in prices, scuppering any subject from agreement. It is not known whether Russia's refusal was the result of a well-thought-out plan or simply a bluff to gain ground in the negotiations, but it was the beginning of a new price war. As can be seen in the graph below, the drop in the price of crude oil in the first month has been historic, without a similar reference letter in the history of negotiations between producers. The increase in the availability of oil in the markets due to the Saudi strategy of loading tankers with crude from its strategic reserves, together with a dry stop of the Economics and the demand for oil, generated a sudden price depression hitherto unknown in the sector. Previous price wars normally had the stabilising element that the lower the price of oil products, the higher the consumption in the short term deadline. However, due to the economic effects of the quarantine, this market counterweight disappears, generating in one month what would otherwise have taken 12 to 15 months.



The effects of COVID-19 on global oil demand are estimated to have fallen by 12.5% in March and are expected to reach 20% in April. In the areas of Europe most affected by the quarantine, the drop in fuel sales at service stations has reached 75%, a figure that is very likely to be replicated in the rest of the advanced economies as the measures are tightened and which China is already beginning to leave behind after two months of confinement. The case of air transport is particular, as it consumes 16 million bpd and is currently totally suspended, with no clear date for a return to normality in international aviation. The partial stoppage of industrial production, the extent of which is still unknown, could lead to even greater drops in consumption. Such a status would not require increased production to generate a collapse in prices, which with the added pressure on the supply side are generating unprecedented levels of stress on storage, transport and refining capacity.

A historic agreement :

In early April, Donald Trump, fearful that an oil glut could further depress prices and destroy the US hydrocarbon industry, took the initiative to speak by telephone with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Russia. In a paradoxical move, the US President succeeded in bringing the major producers closer together to establish new cuts that would put an end to the price war. On 9 April, after several weeks of speculation, the largest ever producers' meeting took place at group , including OPEC members and 10 non-member countries among which Russia, Kazakhstan and Mexico stood out. After several days of negotiations, it was agreed to cut production by 23% in 20 countries with a combined output of more than 40 million barrels, leaving almost 10 million barrels out of the market, starting on the first day of May. The negotiations were coordinated by OPEC and the G20, which at the time was chaired by Saudi Arabia. In this way, a picturesque agreement was reached whereby the aforementioned 10 million barrels were reduced among the OPEC+ members, included in the table below, and another 5 million barrels were estimated to be reduced in an unspecified manner among the US, Canada, Brazil and Norway. The latter cuts, by the nature of their sectors, would be made through the free market and it remains to be seen how they will materialise.



There is some scepticism in the industry and markets about the effectiveness of these cuts, which amount to 10-15% of the oil consumed globally before the COVID-19 crisis. Consumption has fallen by around 20% and oil storage capacity is starting to run out, reducing the margin for absorbing surplus oil. In addition, the cuts will start to be implemented on 1 May, leaving a three-week window that could further depress prices. The nature of agreement, which is voluntary and difficult to monitor, leaves the door open to non-compliance with the established cuts, which are often difficult to apply due to the geological conditions of certain old wells or the existence of contracts that require financial compensation if supply is interrupted. In general, the level of compliance with OPEC agreements has been low, with a greater incidence in countries that export by sea and a lesser incidence in those that export by pipeline, which, unlike maritime cargoes, cannot be controlled by satellite.

The main actors:

Saudi Arabia:

Amid the wreckage of the OPEC+ negotiations, on 6 March Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) led a new palace coup in which former heir to the Saudi throne Mohammed bin Nayef and other members of the royal family were arrested and charged with plotting against Crown Prince MBS and his father Salman bin Abdulaziz. All this at a time when the heir to the Saudi throne seemed to want to consolidate his power with a risky new strategy after the utter failure of the Yemen War and the Vision 2030 national modernisation plan.

Saudi Arabia's undisputed leadership in driving the oil market is based on its ability to increase production by several million barrels in less than six months, something no other country in the world is able to do. The increase in production also allows Saudi Arabia to partially compensate for the decline in prices per barrel, which together with its foreign exchange reserves and access to cheap credit allows Saudi Arabia to face a price war with an apparent resilience far superior to that of any other OPEC country. The low cost of producing a barrel of oil in the country, at around $7, also allows it to maintain revenues in almost any market environment.

However, foreign exchange reserves, at $500 billion, are 30% lower than in 2016, and may be insufficient to maintain dollar-rial parity for more than two years without oil revenues, which is essential for a society accustomed to import-dependent opulence. Moreover, the fiscal deficit has been a major problem for the country, which has been unable to reduce it below 4% after reaching a peak of 16% in 2016 as result of an insufficient recovery in oil prices and the costs of the war in Yemen. Oil's energy dominance has an expiry date and Saudi Arabia's finances are addicted to an activity that accounts for 42% of its GDP and generates 87% of tax revenues. For the moment, the Saudi minister of Economics has already announced a 5% cut in budget by 2020, sample , agreement oil does not ensure an optimistic scenario. In any case, Saudi Arabia has been one of the big winners in the price war. In the failed March negotiations, Saudi Arabia produced 9.7 million barrels per day, a figure that had risen to 11 million barrels per day in the April negotiations. As the cuts are set on a proportional basis, in just one month the Saudi kingdom gained 1.3 million barrels of market share. Similarly, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund Petroleum Investment Fund (PIF) bought shares in Eni, Total, Equinor, Shell and Repsol during the month of April, in a context of stock market falls in these companies.

Russian Federation:

Russia stood firm at the start of the price war, highlighting the resilience of the Russian energy sector and the volume of the country's sovereign reserves, which are lower than those of Saudi Arabia but amount to 435 billion dollars and a stabilisation fund of another 100 billion: 33% more than in 2014. Paradoxically, international sanctions on the Russian oil sector have reduced its dependence on the outside world, allowing the devaluation of the freely convertible rouble not to affect production and partially compensate for lower prices. Russia' s capacity to increase production in the short term deadline, unlike Saudi Arabia, is less than 500,000 bpd, which leaves Russia unable to compensate lower prices with higher production, the main reason for the country's acceptance of the April negotiations result .

Vladimir Putin's leadership is unquestionable with a possible constitutional reform that would allow for an extension of his term of office delayed due to COVID-19. The Russian political elite's good relations with the oil oligarchy allow for unity of action in a country with greater atomisation and the presence of private capital in its companies. Alexander Novak's strategy seems to be in line with that of Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, who is betting on a context of low prices that will end up deeply damaging the US shale industry. There is speculation about a possible US diplomatic intervention with the Russian government in favour of April's agreement OPEC+. Russia's Rosneft's latest move , abandoning Venezuela by selling all its assets to a Russian government-controlled business , may be one explanation for Moscow's concession to accept a agreement that for a month it tried, at least rhetorically, to avoid. The development of future US sanctions on the Russian oil sector will be a good indicator of this possible agreement.

United States:

For the US, falling oil prices mean one of the biggest tax cuts of all time, in the words of its president, with a price of less than a dollar per gallon. However, the oil industry generates more than 10 million jobs in the US and is a central activity in many states such as Texas, Oklahoma or New Mexico, which are fundamental for a hypothetical Republican victory in the 2020 elections. Moreover, the geostrategic importance of the sector, which has allowed the US to reduce its energy dependence to historic lows, has led Donald Trump to take on the responsibility of safeguarding the US oil industry. He himself coordinated the first steps for a major agreement, by means of pressure, threats and concessions. The truth is that the price crisis has come at a time of certain exhaustion for the sector, which was beginning to suffer the effects of over-indebtedness and pressure from investors to increase profits. Since 2011, North American crude oil, priced on the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) index, has experienced an evaluation 10% lower than that of Brent or the OPEC Basket, the other global indices, generating a hyper-competitive environment that was beginning to take its toll on shale producers, which since the end of 2019 have seen a 20% drop in the total drillingissue year-on-year. The North American market, which had already been experiencing storage and transportation problems since 2017, collapsed in the third week of April with negative prices due to the limitations to store oil and speculation in the futures markets.

Donald Trump has finally secured a global agreement that does not bind the US directly, but leaves it to the market to regulate the cuts that seem more than foreseeable. In this way, the Trump administration allows itself not to have to intervene in the oil market, something that would surely force the development of legislation and a complex discussion to save the polluting oil industry at the taxpayer's expense. From the Senate, several politicians from both parties have tried to introduce the need for tariffs or sanctions on those producers who flood the domestic market to the parliamentary discussion , recovering old initiatives such as the NOPEC Act. These threats have allowed the President to gain a strong position at the international level, being one of the big winners at the agreement OPEC+ in April. In fact, when negotiations seemed on the verge of collapse due to Mexico's refusal to take on 400,000 barrels per day of cuts, the US intervened by announcing that it would be the US that would take them on. Subsequent leaks have shown the existence of financial insurance taken out by Mexico in case of low oil prices, which would be charged per barrel produced. The US intervention, more rhetorical than internship since the country has no concrete production to cut, saved agreement from another failure.


Facilities for the refining of petroleum products [Pixabay].

Facilities for the refining of petroleum products [Pixabay].


Nothing will ever be the same again:

The shale oil revolution has transformed the oil industry and generated a new geopolitical balance to the detriment of OPEC. Since 2016, OPEC+ countries have made cuts estimated at 5.3 million barrels per day, while the North American shale industry has increased its production by 4.2 million barrels, making it clear that the oligopolistic strategy of the producing countries has come to an end. All that remains is the free market, in which they have an advantage due to lower production costs. However, eliminating a large part of the North American shale final would take more than three years of prices below 30 dollars, at which point a large part of the companies' debt would mature and the drop in new wells issue would seriously affect total production. A journey in the desert for many producing countries that have billion-dollar plans for economic diversification during this decade, probably the last decade of absolute energy domination by hydrocarbons. The world, unlike what was expected at the beginning of the century, has entered a period of oil abundance that will reduce energy costs unless coordinated intervention in the market remedies this. The emergence of new producers, mainly the United States, Canada and Brazil, coupled with the collapse of Venezuelan and Libyan production, has left OPEC 's market share in 2020 at around 33%, in free fall since the beginning of the century when it exceeded 40%.

Global demand for crude oil has declined to such an extent that cutbacks can only be expected to prevent a fall below $15 a barrel by prolonging the full filling of remaining oil storage systems as long as possible. Global oil storage capacity is one of the great unknowns in the sector, with diverging estimates. The bulk of the storage capacity is supported by importing countries, which since the 1973 oil crisis decided to create the International Energy Agency, among other things, to coordinate infrastructure to mitigate dependence on OPEC. The strategic nature of these reserves, coupled with the rapid development of these reserves in the last decade by China and its companies, make access to this information very difficult. In particular, China's Sinopec has developed a strategy of building oil storage facilities throughout the China Sea, including in foreign countries such as Indonesia, to resist any possible blockade of the Strait of Malacca, China's geopolitical weak point. Private companies also have onshore and floating storage capacity of undetermined volume that has already begun to be used in imaginative ways: disused pipelines, oil tankers and even trains and trucks now grounded by quarantine. In the short term, deadline, these strategic reserves will be gradually replenished at a rate similar to 20 million barrels per day, an estimate of the current differential between supply and demand. In 50 days, if no agreement is reached to cut production, the amount in storage would exceed 1 billion barrels, which would probably saturate the market's capacity to absorb more oil, leading to a total collapse in prices.

A return to economic normality is increasingly on the distant horizon, with sectors such as aviation and tourism set to be weighed down by COVID-19 for a long time to come. The impact on oil demand will be prolonged, especially given the storage capacity that will now act as a counterweight to any upward movement in international prices. The shale industry, with great flexibility, will begin to hibernate while waiting for a new, more favourable context. The COVID-19 crisis will have a particularly virulent impact on the oil-exporting countries at development , which have more delicate socio-economic balances. The oil world is undergoing major changes as part of the energy transition and development of new technologies. The COVID-19 crisis is only the beginning of the major transformations that the industry will undergo in the coming decades. An oft-repeated phrase to refute the already dismissed Peak Oil theory is that the Stone Age did not end because of a lack of stones, and contemporary society will not stop using hydrocarbons because of their depletion, but because of their obsolescence.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Global

The UN Conference did little to increase international commitment to climate change action, but did at least boost the assertiveness of the EU

In recent years, the temperature of the Earth has risen, causing the desertification of lands and the melting of the Poles. This is a major threat to food production and provokes the rise of sea levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that there is a more than 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years are the cause of global warming. Since 1995 the United Nations has organized international meetings in order to coordinate measures to reduce CO2 emissions, which arguably are behind the increases in temperature. The latest meeting was the COP25, which took place in Madrid this past December. The COP25 could be labeled almost a missed opportunity.

ARTICLE / Alexia Cosmello and Ane Gil

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme. The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report concluded that: "Climate change is real and human activities are the main cause". In recent years, rising temperatures on earth have contributed to the melting of the Polar Ice Cap and an increase in desertification. These developments have provoked the rise of sea levels and stresses on global food production, respectively.

In 1992, the IPCC formed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the goal of minimizing anthropogenic damage to the earth's climate. 197 countries have since ratified the UNFCCC, making it nearly universal. Since 1995, the UNFCCC has held an annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to combat climate change. These COPs assess the progress of national governments in managing the climate crisis, and establish the legally binding obligations of developed countries to combat climate change. The most significant international agreements emerging from UNFCCC annual COPs are the Kyoto Protocol (2005) and the Paris Agreement (2016). The most recent COP25(25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Madrid in December 2019.

The previous conference(COP24) marked a significant improvement in international regulation for implementing the Paris Agreement, but crucially ignored the issue of carbon markets (Article 6). Thus, one of the main objectives of COP25 was the completion of an operating guide for the Paris Accords that included provisions for carbon market regulation. However, COP25 failed to reach a consensus on carbon market regulation, largely due to opposition from Brazil and Australia. The issue will be passed onto next year's COP26.

Another particularly divisive issue in COP25 was the low level of international commitment. In the end, only 84 countries committed to the COP25 resolutions; among them we find Spain, the UK, France and Germany. Key players such as the US, China, India and Russia all declined to commit, perhaps because together they account for 55% of global CO2 emissions. All states will review their commitments for COP26 in 2020, but if COP26 goes anything like COP25 there will be little hope for positive change.

COP25 also failed to reach an agreement on reimbursements for damage and loss resulting from climate change. COP15 set the goal of increasing the annual budget of the Green Climate Fund to 100 billion USD by 2020, but due to the absence of sufficient financial commitment in COP25, it appears that this goal will not be met.

It is worth noting that in spite of these grave failures, COP25 did achieve minor improvements. Several new policies were established and a variety of multilateral agreements were made. In terms of policies, COP25 implemented a global "Gender Action Plan," which will focus on the systematic integration of gender equality into climate policies. Additionally, COP25 issued a declaration calling for increased consideration of marine biodiversity. In terms of multilateral agreements, many significant commitments were made by a vast array of countries, cities, businesses, and international coalitions. Notably, after COP25, the Climate Ambitious Coalition now counts with the impressive support of 27 investors, 763 companies, 393 cities, 14 regions, and 70 countries.

But by far the saving grace of COP25 was the EU. The EU shone brightly during COP25, acting as an example for the rest of the world. And this is nothing new. The EU has been a forerunner in climate change action for over a decade now. In 2008, the EU established its first sustainability goals, which it called the "2020 Goals". These goals included: reducing GHG emission by 20% (compared to 1990), increasing energy efficiency by 20%, and satisfying a full 20% of total energy consumption with renewable energy sources. To date, the EU has managed not merely to achieve these goals, but to surpass them. In fact, by 2017, EU GHG emissions had been reduced not just by 20%, but by 22%.

The EU achieved these lofty goals because it backed them up with effective policies. Note:

i) The launch by the EU Commission in June 2000 of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP). Its main goal is to identify and develop all the necessary elements of an EU strategy to implement the UN Kyoto Protocol of COP3.

ii) The EU ECCP developed the ETS (EU emissions trading system), which has helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive industries and power plants.

iii)The EU adopted revised rules for the ETS in February 2018, which set the limits on CO2 emissions of heavy industry and power stations.

iv)The EU opted for a "circular economy." In May 2018, the EU decided on new rules for waste management and established legally binding targets for recycling. In May 2019, the EU adopted a ban on single-use plastic items.

v) The EU limited CO2 emissions on the roads. In April 2019, stricter emission limits for cars and vans were passed. By 2029, both cars and vans will be required to emit on average 15% less CO2.

vi) The EU approved new regulations in May 2018 for improved protection and management of lands and forests.

If the EU is anywhere near as successful at combating climate change in the decades to come as it has proved itself to be in the past decade, the EU seems primed to achieve both its 2030 Goals, and its 2050 Goals (the European Green Deal). The 2030 Goals include cutting GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 (compared to 1990). Such new measures will make the EU's economy and energy systems more competitive, more secure, and more sustainable. The 2050 Goals are even more ambitious: they include the complete elimination all CO2 emissions and the achievement of a climate-neutral EU by 2050. The EU's 2030 and 2050 Goals, if achieved, will be a remarkable step in the right direction towards achieving the Paris Agreement objective to keep global temperature increase stabilized at 1.5ºC and well below 2ºC.

The European Green Deal and 2030 and 2050 Goals will demand far more effort than the 2020 Goals, especially in the political and economic spheres. Poland has yet to commit to the Deal, which has led the European Council to postpone the matter until June 2020. But progress in the EU towards the 2050 Goals is already underway. The Just Transition Mechanism was proposed in December 2019 to provide support for European regions projected to be most affected by the transition to climate neutrality. (This measure will also hopefully serve to assuage the concerns of Poland and other members.) The EU Commission is to prepare a long-term strategy proposal as early as possible in 2020 with the intention of its adoption by the Council and its submission to the UNFCCC shortly thereafter. Furthermore, the EU Commission has also been tasked with a proposal, after a thorough impact assessment, for an update of the EU's nationally determined contribution for 2030 under the Paris Agreement. The EU's example is reason to hope for a bright and sustainable future for the developed world.

Unfortunately, not every developed country is as committed to sustainability as the EU. While many efforts have been made at both the global and regional levels to combat climate change, it is abundantly clear that these efforts are horrendously insufficient. In order to properly address climate change, consistent commitment to sustainability from all parties is imperative. Those countries such as the US, China, India and Russia that abstained from committing to the COP25 resolutions need to begin following in the EU's sustainable footsteps and start behaving like true global citizens as well. If they do not, even the EU's exemplary efforts will not be anywhere near enough to slow climate change.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Global

Gold mining and oil transport pollute Amazonian rivers

Not only are fires negatively affecting the Amazon, which is undergoing an accelerated reduction in forest mass, but increased activity, driven by deforestation itself - which in turn encourages illegal mining and more fuel transport - increases pollution of the Amazon River and other waterways in the countries that are part of the region. The use of mercury in gold mining is an additional serious problem for the communities living in the basin.

Sunset on the Amazon River, Brazil [Pixabay] [Pixabay].

▲ Sunset on the Amazon River, Brazil [Pixabay].

article / Ramón Barba

The increase in illegal mining in the Amazon region, in countries such as Colombia and Peru, and especially in Venezuela, has increased river pollution throughout the basin. Pollution is also aggravated by the transport of oil, which generates crude oil leaks, and by the discharge of wastewater linked to increased human activity, which in turn is related to increasing deforestation.

Illegal mining has spread especially in the last two decades, linked to the increase in the price of minerals. Despite the general fall in the price of raw materials since 2014, the quotation has remained high in the case of gold, because as a safe haven value it resists the global economic slowdown. Obtaining gold requires the manipulation of mercury to extract and separate it from the rocks or stones in which it is found. It is estimated that illegal mining activity discharges an average of 24 kilos of mercury per square kilometer. As the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) points out in its report Regional Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis of the Amazon Basin of 2018, it is estimated that the Brazilian Amazon alone received 2,300 tons of mercury until 1994 and then has registered volumes around 150 tons per year.

ACTO indicates that mining is located especially in the Guiana Shield, in the Andean zones of Peru and Bolivia, and in the Colombian piedmont. Information gathered by this organization estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 people are involved in this activity in Colombia and Peru, a figure that doubles in the case of Brazil.

For its part, the network Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada (RAISG), in its study La Amazonía Saqueada, of late 2018, notes that the area in which illegal mining occurs "is on the rise", especially in Venezuela, where "reports change drastically from year to year". The RAISG computes 2,312 points in the Amazon region where there is illegal mining activity, of which 1,899 correspond to Venezuela.

According to RAISG's report , mining exploitation gives a double functionality to rivers, as they are used for the introduction of machinery and for the disposal of minerals. This has serious environmental effects (soil erosion, contamination of water and hydrological resources, extinction of aquatic flora and fauna, atmospheric impacts...), as well as serious consequences for the health of indigenous peoples, as mercury contamination of rivers affects fish and other living beings that move in the river environment. Given that the main per diem expenses of indigenous peoples is fish, the ingestion of high levels of mercury ends up damaging the health of the populations (cases of loss of vision, heart disease, damage to the central nervous, cognitive or motor system, among others).

Another aspect of mining activity is that it tends to lead to land appropriation and incursion into protected natural areas in the Amazon, increasing deforestation and reducing biodiversity. The Tapajós and Xingú areas in Brazil, together with the Guiana Shield, are the areas most affected by deforestation, according to RAISG. According to programs of study , this organization indicates that deforestation due to gold mining has accelerated in the last twenty years, from 377 km2 deforestation between 2001-2007, to 1,303 km2 deforestation between 2007-2013. In Peru, it is worth noting the case of department Madre de Dios, where 1,320 hectares were deforested between 2017 and 2018.

Other causes of contamination

In addition to illegal mining, other processes also pollute rivers, such as hydrocarbon extraction activities, wastewater discharge and river transport, as warned by ACTO, an organization that groups the eight countries with territory in the Amazon region: Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Hydrocarbon contamination. The status affects the five countries to the west of the Basin (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana and Brazil), Bolivia being a potential candidate as it has large untapped gas reserves in the area. Contamination in this case comes from the transport of oil by river from the extraction points to the refineries. This has important environmental and socioeconomic consequences, such as soil degradation and air pollution, which also implies loss of flora and fauna, as well as hydrobiological resources, affecting biodiversity and species migration. In the socioeconomic field, these problems translate into increased operational costs, the displacement of indigenous people, an increase in diseases and the emergence of conflicts.

Pollution from domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater. Despite the large amount of water available in the countries of the Amazon basin, the level of sanitation does not exceed 60%. As a consequence, rivers become vectors of disease in many rural communities, as sanitation is lower in these communities. data , which has not been updated, speaks of urban and domestic waste of 1.7 million tons per liter and 600 liters per second in 2007. At the same time, it is important to take into account the damage caused by agroindustrial activities in river courses, since the large number of insects and microorganisms issue implies an abundant use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Among the environmental and social problems caused by this activity are the emission of greenhouse gases, the deterioration of aquatic ecosystems, eutrophication and pollution by agrochemicals, and the loss of wages and increase in water treatment costs.

Pollution from river transport. The Amazon region has about 24,000 km of navigable rivers, which are the main means of communication. Some 50 million tons of cargo were transported on the Amazon at the beginning of the decade just ended. In addition to fuel leaks, the activity produces a dragging of sludge that is not dredged periodically, as well as contamination of riverbanks and beaches, which damages the Economics and tourism.



Impact on indigenous communities   

For many indigenous peoples, as is the case in Colombia, gold is a sacred mineral because it represents the sun on earth. They consider that the extraction of this mineral implies the loss of life in the territory and in order to extract it the shamans of the area must "ask permission" through a series of ceremonies; to do so without the granted permission implies negative consequences, hence the indigenous populations associate the improper extraction of gold with illness and death. An example of this is the area of the Aaporis River, also considered sacred, where Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa speaks of the xawara wakémi (the smoke epidemic), derived from the burning of gold and which is, according to him, the cause of death of some inhabitants of the area.

However, members of indigenous communities also engage in artisanal mining, either because they reject the tradition of entrance in the face of the economic benefits of illegal extraction, or because they are forced into this occupation by the lack of opportunities. The latter occurs in the Peruvian communal reservation of Amarakaeri, which is very affected by extractive activity, where its inhabitants have been forced to practice artisanal mining, pressured by their subsistence needs and by external mining interests that end up exploiting them.

Uncontrolled mining, on the other hand, has a negative impact on the environment in which indigenous people live. In the Ecuadorian province of Zamora Chinchipie, for example, a mega project open-pit mining operation was carried out, the impact of which has involved deforestation in the area of 1,307 hectares between 2009 and 2017.

It is worth highlighting the fact that mining not only implies an attack against certain indigenous cultural aspects, but also a serious attack against their human rights in that, despite being peoples living in voluntary isolation, mining companies interfere in these reserves and force displacements and uprooting. This status is especially critical in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, countries in which there is a "gray zone" between legality and illegality in artisanal mining, increasing the Degree impact on indigenous areas. At the same time, it is worth mentioning the repressive activity of the states in the destruction of dredges and rafts, which leads to a violent response from those affected, as occurred in the Humaita revolt in Brazil.

Indigenous life has also been affected by the presence in these territories of guerrilla or paramilitary groups, as well as organized crime groups. In Colombia, armed groups have taken advantage of mining to finance their activities, which they develop in areas with high levels of poverty and difficult access for the Government. Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 6% increase in this activity, in places where coca can also be grown, whose production has likewise increased in recent years. The OECD 's 2016 Due Diligence in the Colombian Gold Supply Chain report indicates that the FARC, ELN and criminal gangs began their mining activity in the 1980s and increased it in the 1990s as a result of the rising price of gold and the increased difficulty of obtaining stable drug revenues. In 2012, the FARC and ELN had a presence in 40% of Colombia's 489 mining municipalities. Recently, ELN presence has been witnessed in illegal mining in Venezuela, especially in the state of Bolivar, to which FARC dissidents sheltered in Venezuelan territory could be added.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

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Carrera por los recursos espaciales: de la minería al control de rutas

▲ proposal of lunar base for obtaining helium, taken from [Christopher Barnatt]. GLOBAL AFFAIRS JOURNAL / Emili J. Blasco [8-page document.... ReadmoreAboutRace for space resources: from mining to route control "

Ecuador desaprovecha su salida de la OPEP y pierde producción petrolera

The country left the cartel in order to expand its pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%. Construction of a variant of the pipeline that crosses the... ReadmoreAboutEcuador misses out on OPEC exit and loses oil production "

Argentina ve en Vaca Muerta una tabla de salvación, pero falta más capital para su desarrollo

The hydrocarbon field is the central axis of the Gas 2020-2023 Plan of President Alberto Fernández, which subsidizes part of the investment Activity of YPF, Argentina's state-owned oil and gas... ReadmoreAboutArgentina sees Vaca Muerta as a lifeline, but more capital is needed for its development "

El gas natural licuado cambia el juego en el hemisferio americano

U.S. LNG sales to its neighbors and exports from Latin American and Caribbean countries to Europe and Asia open new perspectives Not to depend on gas pipelines, but to be able to buy or sell... ReadmoreAboutLiquefied natural gas is a game changer in the American hemisphere "

Could Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy?

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors Spain was an early developer of solar energy, but it didn't keep the pace with the... ReadmoreAboutCould Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy? "

Surinam sigue a Guyana en el ‘milagro’ petrolero

The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in off-shore wells places the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighboring Guyana. The intuition has proved to be right and the... ReadmoreAboutSuriname follows Guyana in the oil 'miracle' "

Climate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]. ESSAY / Alejandro J. Alfonso In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25,... ReadmoreAboutClimate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them "

La nueva guerra de precios petroleros

March and April 2020 will be remembered in the oil industry as the months in which the perfect storm occurred: a drop of more than 20% in global demand at the same time that the oil industry... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil price war "

Was the Madrid COP25 useful?

The UN Conference did little to increase international commitment to climate change action, but did at least boost the assertiveness of the EU In recent years, the temperature of the Earth has... ReadmoreAboutWas the Madrid COP25 useful? "

La minería ilegal, la otra destrucción de la Amazonía

Gold mining and oil transport pollute Amazonian rivers It is not only the fires that are negatively affecting the Amazon, which is undergoing an accelerated reduction of... ReadmoreAboutIllegal mining, the other destruction of the Amazon "

Centroamérica aprovecha sus volcanes para generación eléctrica

Geothermal energy already accounts for 7.5% of the Central American electricity mix, with installed capacity still far below the estimated potential. Volcanic activity and tectonic movement... ReadmoreAboutCentral America harnesses its volcanoes for power generation "

Jordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation

▲Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]. ANALYSIS / Marina Díaz Escudero Water is an essential natural resource, not only for individual survival on Earth, but also for nation-states... Read moreAboutJordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation "

Qué hará Bolivia con su gas natural cuando Brasil y Argentina ya no lo necesiten

The upcoming gas self-sufficiency of its two major gas-buying neighbors forces the Bolivian government to seek alternative markets Yacimientos Pretrolíferos Fiscales gas plant in... ReadmoreAboutWhat Bolivia will do with its natural gas when Brazil and Argentina no longer need it "

Blood diamonds keep going through Antwerp

The Belgian city, the world's capital of diamonds, has applied more regulations, sanctions and scrutiny on the industry, but still there are some bad practices ▲ The diamond industry has... ReadmoreAboutBlood diamonds keep going through Antwerp "

Cumbre del Clima 2018, un paso hacia adelante

The meeting COP24 made progress in regulating the Paris agreement , but "carbon markets" remained blocked. Mobilizations in favor of governments taking more drastic measures... ReadmoreAboutClimate Summit 2018, a step forward "

La nueva Guyana petrolera y su proyección internacional

One of the poorest countries in the Americas may become the world's largest oil producer per capita, disrupting the relationship with its neighbors. The promising oil discoveries... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil Guyana and its international projection "

Acuífero Guaraní: mejor que otros, pero pervivencia no asegurada

Geopolitical misgivings about perceived foreign interests should not distract beneficiary countries from implementing sustainable use. The Guarani Aquifer has given rise to a... ReadmoreAboutAquifer Guarani: better than others, but survival not assured "

El 'boom' de la quinoa

Global interest in this fashionable grain has brought additional income to Andean communities. The localization of quinoa production, especially in Peru and Bolivia (together they account for... ReadmoreAboutThe quinoa boom "

Impulso a la conexión gasística de los países de la Iniciativa de los Tres Mares

Poland-Germany struggle for influence in the European region between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea The latest summit of the Three Seas Initiative (TMI) was attended by the... ReadmoreAboutBoosting the gas connection of the Three Seas Initiative countries "

'Guerras del agua' en Asia Central

Central Asian republics dispute scarce water resources in the Aral Sea Basin The lack of effective cooperation between the republics through which the two main water resources of the... Read moreAbout'Water Wars' in Central Asia "