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  • Writer's picture Paul Boëffard

BASHIR DAN - EXPERT INTERVIEW N°2


PRESENTATION

Bashir Dan, is a visionary leader in sustainable development and carbon markets, serves as the founder and CEO of STACK CARBON. A climate tech startup at the forefront of accelerating permanent carbon drawdown through mineralization, with a unique model empowering local communities while addressing climate change.


With over 3 years of experience across carbon asset development, offset trading, policy advisory, and entrepreneurship, Bashir has established himself as one of the foremost experts on market-based climate mitigation. He advises governments, corporations, and NGOs from policy to building robust carbon accounting and MRV frameworks and leveraging carbon finance to enable impactful sustainability initiatives. 


Named among the top 10 most read thought leaders in carbon markets globally in 2023, Bashir is a widely respected visionary on catalyzing climate action while fostering inclusive prosperity. As a peer educator at IRENA, he is also dedicated to spreading knowledge and empowering the next generation of sustainability leaders.


Notably, Bashir provides critical insights into Uganda's oil development situation for LEAVIT. He analyzes the potential for financial compensation in exchange for leaving oil in the ground, emphasizing the importance of balancing economic growth with environmental stewardship


I-DIAGNOSTIC


LEAVIT: As of 2023, the remaining carbon budget to limit global warming to 1.5°C is 380 Gt of CO2 emissions, while developed fossil fuel reserves could potentially contribute 915 Gt if fully extracted and burned (Oil Change International). In other words, there are 2.5 times more fossil fuel extraction projects underway than necessary to stay under the 1.5°C limit. What is your view on Fossil Fuel supply side initiatives ?


BASHIR DAN: As the data indicates, the world is rapidly depleting its remaining carbon budget to limit global warming to 1.5°C, largely due to the continued expansion of fossil fuel extraction projects. For too long, climate efforts have centered around reducing demand and emissions, inadvertently placing a disproportionate burden on consumers while allowing fossil fuel companies and producing nations to carry on with business as usual. To truly tackle the climate crisis, a multi-pronged approach targeting the supply side of fossil fuels is imperative.


This could involve direct interventions such as capping fossil fuel production levels, ending new exploration and drilling, and implementing a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry through regulation and financing restrictions. Complementary measures like eliminating the substantial subsidies that keep fossil fuels artificially cheap, instituting carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems, and even pursuing an international treaty akin to nuclear non-proliferation could further constrain the fossil fuel supply chain. By making it increasingly difficult and costly to extract and bring carbon-intensive fuels to market, supply-side policies can create a much-needed counterweight to the runaway expansion of fossil fuel reserves.


While such interventions undoubtedly face significant economic and political hurdles, addressing the supply side is essential to sharing responsibility for emission reductions more equitably between consumers and producers. Policymakers can no longer afford to overlook the paradox of nations sanctioning more fossil fuel projects than the planet's remaining carbon budget permits. A holistic strategy encompassing both demand and supply-side solutions is critical to achieving the urgent transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and keeping global warming below catastrophic levels.



LEAVIT: Paradoxically, nations with low historical emissions are discouraged by Western countries from drilling, yet they continue to finance and subsidize their own domestic petroleum production. The US, UK, Canada, Australia and Norway account for 51% of the total planned oil and gas expansion by 2050. What is your view on Western countries’ hypocrisy ? What could be their contribution to developing oil producing nations ?


BASHIR DAN: The data highlighting the hypocrisy of Western nations discouraging developing countries from tapping into their oil and gas resources, while simultaneously financing and subsidizing expansion of their own domestic fossil fuel production, is deeply problematic. A few key points:


Firstly, this double standard is patently unfair and reeks of neo-colonial arrogance. Developing nations have a right to utilize their own natural resources for economic development, just as Western nations have benefited immensely from fossil fuel extraction. Denying them this opportunity perpetuates imbalances in global power dynamics.


Secondly, it is hypocritical for Western nations to preach restraint on fossil fuels abroad while aggressively expanding drilling and extraction at home. The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Norway accounting for over half of planned oil and gas expansion to 2050 is unconscionable from a climate justice perspective.


That said, a way forward could involve Western nations actively contributing to a just energy transition in the developing world via major investments in renewable energy infrastructure, technology transfer, financing and capacity building. Rather than denying developing nations a pathway to energy security and economic prosperity, wealthier nations should help leapfrog fossil fuel dependency altogether.


Specific measures could include large-scale funding for solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric projects in the Global South, coupled with training local workforce and facilitating indigenous clean energy initiatives. Debt relief and climate financing mechanisms can alleviate economic pressures on developing nations to lean on fossil fuels.


Ultimately, climate change is a collective crisis requiring good-faith cooperation, not neocolonial subjugation masked as environmental ethics. Western leaders must walk the talk on emissions reductions while earnestly uplifting developing nations to renewable, sustainable energy futures. Anything less than an equitable, inclusive energy transition will be unacceptably unjust.



II-FOCUS ON UGANDA:


LEAVIT: Uganda joined the list of prospective oil-producing countries in 2006, with six billion barrels of proven oil reserves in the Albertine Graben, part of the western arm of the east African rift valley. Out of this discovery, 1.4 billion barrels are economically viable for extraction. The peak production is projected to be between 200,000 and 250,000 barrels of oil per day, and the extraction is expected to last 25 years. What has been the oil development situation in Uganda since 2006 ?  What are the main State stakeholders ?


BASHIR DAN:  Since the discovery of significant oil reserves in the Albertine Graben region in 2006, Uganda has been working towards developing its nascent oil and gas industry. Here's an overview of the situation:


Progress:

  • Uganda has put in place the necessary legal and regulatory frameworks to govern the oil and gas sector, including the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act in 2013.

  • Major international oil companies like Total, CNOOC and Tullow Oil acquired exploration and production licenses in the region.

  • Front-end engineering and design studies were conducted for a crude export pipeline to transport Uganda's oil to international markets.

  • Plans are underway for an oil refinery to be built near Hoima to meet domestic fuel demands.


Key Stakeholders:

  • Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development: The lead government agency overseeing and regulating the oil and gas sector.

  • Petroleum Authority of Uganda: The statutory body managing and monitoring oil and gas resources.

  • Uganda National Oil Company: The state company representing commercial interests in the oil sector.

  • Joint Venture Partners: Total (66.7% interest), CNOOC (33.3%) are the main investors after acquiring stakes from Tullow Oil.

  • Local Communities: In areas like Buliisa, Hoima where oil fields are located. Land acquisition and compensation has been contentious.


III-FOCUS ON EACOP


LEAVIT: The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Uganda aiming to transport crude oil from the Albertine Graben region to the Tanzanian port of Tanga. Uganda entered into agreements in 2012 with two foreign oil entities (Total and CNOOC) to exploit its oil resources. Production is due to start in 2025. As part of the production sharing agreement, the production licences are valid for 25 years upon extracting the first oil. What are the population views on EACOP project ? Are there politician looking to find an economic alternative to oil extraction ? 


BASHIR DAN:  The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project in Uganda has deeply polarized public opinion, with perspectives diverging sharply over its projected economic benefits and environmental consequences. While the government and segments of the population view the $3.5 billion pipeline as a catalytic investment to propel Uganda's development by unlocking its vast oil wealth, environmental activists and humanitarian groups have raised vociferous opposition citing threats to local ecosystems, water sources, and community livelihoods. 


Fueling this acrimonious divide are anxieties over the forced displacement of families, inadequate compensation mechanisms, and an apparent lack of free, prior and informed consent from affected communities along the pipeline's 1,445 km route from western Uganda to the Tanzanian port of Tanga. Climate advocates further decry the fundamental paradox of funneling billions into new fossil fuel infrastructure at a pivotal juncture when the world needs to urgently transition away from carbon-intensive energy to renewables to avert catastrophic global warming.


While the ruling National Resistance Movement party projects the oil cash flows as an economic panacea to lift millions out of poverty, the opposition and civil society actors articulate dissenting perspectives - with some lawmakers advocating for a strategic reprioritization of Uganda's resources into sustainable clean energy sources like geothermal and hydropower. However, no major political force has overtly rejected oil extraction as the core economic alternative yet, as the current development agenda hinges on anticipated petroleum revenues. As Uganda inches closer to its 2025 production target, reconciling the cacophony of viewpoints over EACOP's risks and rewards in a judicious, environmentally-conscious manner will be an immense governance challenge demanding foresight and dexterity from policymakers.



IV-FINANCIAL COMPENSATION


LEAVIT: Given the substantial financial stakes in the oil industry, a new form of financial incentive is necessary to encourage governments to reconsider drilling. It prompts us to explore innovative methods, such as providing financial incentives to oil producing countries to trigger a national conversation on the looming exit from fossil fuels. Is financial compensation a relevant proposal to sway Uganda to leave oil and thus carbon in the ground ? 


BASHIR DAN:  Proposing financial compensation or incentives for Uganda to forego its oil extraction plans is a thought-provoking idea, but one that faces significant complexities and challenges in implementation.


On one hand, the promise of substantial financial assistance from the international community could indeed sway the Ugandan government to reconsider its current heavy investment and development path focused on exploiting its oil and gas reserves. For a country still grappling with high poverty rates and annual budgetary constraints, a lucrative financial package that offsets the projected oil revenues could catalyze a re-evaluation and pivot away from the fossil fuel industry. It would allow Uganda to take a leadership role in aligning with climate goals.


However, several barriers could make this an extremely difficult proposition in practice. Firstly, the sheer magnitude of finances needed to compensate for billions in expected oil income over 25+ years would likely require funding commitments well beyond what most nations are willing to pledge, especially amid economic uncertainties. Secondly, there are complex questions around what entity would coordinate and operationalize such an incentive scheme for fossil-fuel phaseouts. 


Moreover, the Ugandan leadership may perceive this as an infringement on their national sovereignty over domestic energy policies and natural resources. There could be reluctance to accede to external inducements that limit their development prerogatives. Issues like Uganda's rising energy demands, unemployment concerns, and the need for infrastructural investment financed by fossil revenues add further wrinkles.


Ultimately, while financial incentives are an innovative idea worthy of exploration, they need to be carefully structured through inclusive dialogue to make them a pragmatic and politically palatable alternative for Uganda.


LEAVIT: Where would the money better be invested to foster human development and building a carbon neutral society ? Food Sovereignty – RES – Nature conservation etc.


BASHIR DAN: A more prudent approach would be to strategically invest those funds into fostering Uganda's long-term human development and transition towards a carbon-neutral, sustainable economy. For instance, substantial investments in bolstering food sovereignty through modernized agricultural practices, rural infrastructure, and resilient food systems could enhance livelihoods, nutrition, and economic prospects for Uganda's largely agrarian population. Parallel financing for utility-scale renewable energy projects like solar, wind, and geothermal could accelerate Uganda's energy transition while creating green jobs. Conservation efforts to preserve the country's rich biodiversity and ecosystems merit prioritization as well.


LEAVIT: Do you think carbon markets could be a promising source of funding to compensate Uganda in exchange for relinquishing oil development ?


BASHIR DAN: Carbon markets present an innovative financing avenue that could incentivize Uganda to relinquish its oil development plans, but they come with significant caveats and limitations that need to be carefully evaluated.


The basic premise would be for companies, countries or organizations with unavoidable carbon emissions to purchase carbon credits by essentially paying Uganda to keep its oil (and the associated emissions) in the ground. This could unlock substantial revenue streams for Uganda as an alternative to oil extraction.


However, the challenges lie in the structure and governance of such carbon market mechanisms. There are complexities around establishing additionality (proving reserves would be extracted without the offsets), quantifying the emissions avoided, ensuring permanence of the reserves remaining untouched, and preventing potential leakage. There are also ethical debates around whether carbon markets allow wealthy polluters to simply pay to continue emitting instead of decarbonizing.


For Uganda to seriously consider this path, robust monitoring, reporting and verification frameworks would need to be instituted with credible third-party oversight. Uganda may also demand guarantees that such carbon finance flows would be reliable and sustainable over the long-term, rather than subjecting them to volatility.


Ultimately, while carbon markets provide an innovative conceptual avenue, they are likely an imperfect, partial solution that should be just one component of a broader package involving technology transfers, transition financing, economic diversification support and other sustainable development priorities aligned to Uganda's self-determination.


A carefully structured carbon finance deal as part of a holistic, co-created climate partnership could potentially catalyze Uganda's transition away from fossil fuels. But it needs to be crafted through genuine dialogue respecting Uganda's sovereignty over its natural resources and development trajectory.



V-LEAVIT INITIATIVE


LEAVIT : is a pioneering initiative exploring the use of climate finance incentives to compensate resource-cursed oil-producing countries for relinquishing oil development. In other words, updating and improving Ecuador's Yasuni ITT Initiative with current international financial tools and cooperation mechanisms. What are your views on the Initiative and what advises would you give going further ? 


BASHIR DAN: LEAVIT initiative represents a bold and innovative approach to harness the power of climate finance in incentivizing oil-producing nations to preserve their fossil fuel reserves underground while concurrently catalyzing their transition towards sustainable, low-carbon economic models. By positioning itself as an improved and modernized successor to Ecuador's pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative, LEAVIT astutely recognizes both the development imperatives of these resource-rich yet climate-vulnerable nations as well as the urgent need to steer them away from carbon-intensive extractive industries.


Rather than resorting to punitive measures or outright bans, LEAVIT's carrot-based model thoughtfully employs a novel combination of financing tools like carbon markets, green bonds, and multilateral climate funds to effectively compensate these nations for the foregone revenues from unexploited oil and gas reserves. This pragmatic path creates a viable economic alternative while respecting national sovereignty over natural resources.


However, to truly operationalize such an ambitious vision, LEAVIT would be well-advised to institute robust governance frameworks with unimpeachable transparency, third-party monitoring, and iron-clad verification to ensure the additionality, permanence and prevent double-counting of avoided emissions.


Moreover, the initiative's architecture must enshrine inclusive processes that empower local and indigenous voices, not just treaties with national governments. Complementing the financial incentives with comprehensive technical assistance for economic diversification, job retraining, and scaling up low-carbon industries is vital for a just transition. Crucially, this model should be explicitly articulated as a medium-term bridging strategy to help these nations wean off extractive dependencies and ultimately attain self-sustaining energy independence and resilience through renewable sources.


By thoughtfully amalgamating a blend of climate financing instruments, robust accountability mechanisms, grassroots empowerment and a clearly-defined, time-bound transition roadmap, LEAVIT initiative could forge a replicable and pragmatic pathway for hydrocarbon-reliant economies like Uganda to progressively decarbonize while upholding their development trajectories. Such audacious market-based solutions are pivotal to catalyzing the urgently-needed global energy transformation.


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