Economies whose revenues are strongly dependent on fossil fuels need to develop economic transition plans and structural reforms ahead of the forecasted contraction in oil and gas production from the rapidly evolving clean energy transition.
According to International Energy Agency (IEA) data, annual per capita income from oil and natural gas in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela is forecasted to fall by 75% from $1,800 in recent years to $450 by the 2030s.
The IEA said in its recent net-zero by 2050 roadmap that no more new investments in the oil and natural gas sector along with unabated coal plants are needed.
Demand for and investments in fossil fuels are expected to decline as a result of the clean energy transition, which targets to limit the global temperature towards 1.5 degrees Celsius or well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Coal demand is forecasted to drop by 90% by 2050 and meet only 1% of the global energy demand, the IEA data shows. Global natural gas demand is also estimated to decline by 55% down to 1.75 trillion cubic meters, as global oil demand is set to fall by around 75% to 24 million barrels per day from 90 million barrels in 2020.
The IEA forecasts oil prices per barrel at $35 by 2030 and down to $25 by 2050. Natural gas prices are expected to range between $1.9-$5.2 per million British Thermal Unit (BTU) and coal prices are estimated at between $20-$60 per tonnes.
Falling demand, and a drop in investment volumes and incomes in the fossil fuel sector will have huge impacts on the economies that have a strong dependency on fossil fuels, according to the IEA
The program leader of independent European climate change think tank E3G, Lisa Fischer, said that first and foremost new and emerging producers could be the most vulnerable, particularly in Africa where producers have taken out loans for which costs have not yet been amortized as it takes a long time to repay these.
“For example, Mozambique has just committed to massive development of gas production, but also LNG facilities and has tied itself into international loans that they need to pay back," Fischer said.
"These countries cannot sell their oil and gas and because of climate action, they will struggle to pay back those loans. But of course, anyone who is seeking to expand unneeded infrastructure is increasing the risk," she said.
According to London-based think tank Carbon Tracker, government revenues of petrostates could be $9 trillion lower in the next 20 years under a low-carbon scenario.
A recent analysis by the think tank said, "there is a fundamental shift underway as the global economy begins to decarbonize. Populations that are heavily reliant on fossil-fuel production face lower government revenues and job losses as the pace and inevitability of the energy transition increases."
"The bottom line is that those countries with high dependency on fossil fuels and low diversification are very vulnerable and need to change rapidly to transition to the new world," said Kingsmill Bond, energy strategist at Carbon Tracker.
Bond said Turkey, as a major fossil fuel importer with huge renewable resources, would be a significant beneficiary of the shift to a renewables world.
Structural reforms and new sources of revenue are needed, even though these are unlikely to compensate fully for the drop in oil and gas income, the IEA said.
According to Carbon Tracker data, Iraq's fiscal dependence on oil and gas makes it the most vulnerable country with the share of revenue in this sector reaching as much as 89%.
Other notable countries with high dependency rates on oil and gas revenue include Equatorial Guinea at 81%, South Sudan at 78%, Bahrain and Libya both at 72% and Saudi Arabia at 69%.
Around 67% of Kuwait's economic revenue is derived from oil and gas while this sector accounts for 64% of Azerbaijan's income, and 52% and 45%, respectively for the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.
Russia, with the largest oil reserves and as the biggest gas exporter, is 23% dependent on the oil and gas sector.
Fischer warned the second most vulnerable group to a fall in incomes from fossil fuels include supplier countries to Europe, as the continent is on a trajectory to reduce gas demand.
"If you are actually mainly supplying to Europe, you are incredibly exposed. These are countries like Russia, Algeria and Norway, but also transit countries," Fischer said, adding that for anyone who is particularly dependent on Europe as a market, demand will fall significantly.
Russia is the largest supplier of natural gas and petroleum oils to the EU. Russian energy giant Gazprom estimates that in 2020 its share of the European market was around 33%.
"However, it is not too late for those countries to get in the driving seat in a way and sort of steer a good response to that and start to transition the economy," she noted.
Fischer stressed that these countries need to invest any cash they get from oil and gas revenues in financing a transition to renewables and in building up new revenue streams.
"There is a lot they can do. They can use these revenues not only to invest in renewables, but to make their other economic sectors more efficient, like manufacturing, through energy efficiency, and energy-intensive industries, which are very prevalent in Russia. If they use that to invest in efficiency now, that will create a stronger position on the global market," she added.
- National oil companies might risk public money
National oil companies have a big role to play in the energy transition of their countries as they spend a substantial amount of government expenditure, according to Risky Bet: National Oil Companies in the Energy Transition report by New York-based Natural Resource Governance Institute.
"If national oil companies follow their current course, they will invest more than $400 billion in costly oil and gas projects that will only break even if humanity exceeds its emissions targets and allows the global temperature to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius," the report said.
State oil companies in emerging and developing countries could lead to economic crises and some oil-dependent governments in Africa, Latin America and Eurasia are making particularly "risky bets with public money", the report found.
The risk value as a percentage of government expenditure for Mozambique's national oil company ENH is 179% and 157% for Azerbaijan's SOCAR.
This value is calculated as 61% for Oman's OOC, 53% for Nigeria's NNPC, 36% for Algeria's Sonatrach, 31% for Qatar Petroleum, and 30% for the UAE's ADNOC, while it amounts to 29% and 27% for Malaysia's Petronas and Russia's Gazprom and Rosneft, respectively.
These figures are higher than the average public spending on health, the data showed.
By Firdevs Yuksel and Nuran Erkul Kaya