Picture our world today—an intricate web of challenges, from politics and economics to the environment, all interconnected and shaping our future. Right at the heart of this complexity is a fascinating dance between geopolitics and environmental concerns. Nowhere is this interplay more evident than in the intriguing relationship between Western geostrategy and the global climate agenda.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into this captivating story. On the surface, geopolitics and climate action might seem like entirely different worlds. Geopolitics revolves around nations’ interests, international alliances, and power on the global stage. Climate change, on the other hand, is all about environmental challenges like rising temperatures, extreme weather, and their impact on nature and society.
But beneath the surface, there’s a hidden agenda. The Western world, led by the United States and the European Union, has long been a major player in global geopolitics. These Western nations have been active advocates for tackling climate change and protecting the environment on a worldwide scale.
So, what’s the connection? Well, it turns out that Western nations aren’t just focusing on climate change for the sake of saving the planet. They’re also looking at it as a way to strengthen their global position, especially when it comes to energy.
Historically, fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal have been the backbone of our global energy supply. Controlling these resources has given countries significant geopolitical influence. Western nations, often having to import a lot of their energy, have realised that transitioning to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources can not only help the environment but also reduce their dependence on politically unstable regions for fossil fuels.
This is where the connection between Western geostrategy and the climate agenda comes in. By leading the way in addressing climate change and promoting renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower, Western countries are enhancing their energy security and reducing their vulnerability to global energy supply disruptions, often tied to political tensions in regions rich in fossil fuels.
So, in essence, Western nations are working towards two goals simultaneously: addressing global environmental issues and bolstering their own energy dominance. This intricate relationship highlights the multifaceted nature of today’s global challenges. It reminds us that politics, energy security, and environmental sustainability are all interconnected, shaping our world in ways we might not always see at first glance.
Understanding these connections gives us a deeper insight into why countries are taking action on climate change. It’s about more than just saving the planet; it’s also about securing their own energy future in an ever-changing world.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how this intricate dance between Western strategies and climate action plays out on the ground, particularly in a nation that stands as a poignant example of the challenges and opportunities faced in this interplay: Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, a developing country in South Asia, is home to approximately 165 million people, making it one of the most densely populated nations on Earth. With a GDP of $352 billion, the nation’s ambitions for economic and social development are evident. Yet, on this path to progress, that started during the so-called democratic process in the nineties, Bangladesh grapples with a multitude of challenges, from poverty and inequality to corruption, environmental degradation, and so on.
However, one challenge looms larger than most: ensuring the country’s energy security and sustainability. Bangladesh’s journey towards progress hinges significantly on meeting its surging energy demands, and herein lies the complexity. The nation heavily relies on imported fossil fuels to power its growth engine.
In 2019, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Bangladesh consumed 41.7 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of primary energy. Breaking it down, 62% came from natural gas, 25% from oil, 8% from coal, and a promising 5% from renewable energy sources. However, the dependency on imported energy resources is palpable, with Bangladesh importing 78% of its oil and 23% of its natural gas requirements, primarily from the Middle East and Myanmar. To top it off, the country imported 4.4 million metric tonnes of coal, mainly from Indonesia, Australia, and South Africa.
This reliance on imported energy places Bangladesh in a delicate position, one subject to the unpredictable winds of geopolitics and global energy market fluctuations. At the heart of this intricate web of dependencies and risks is the Western world, encompassing the United States, the European Union, and their allies. These Western powers have wielded substantial economic and military influence, shaping the global energy landscape according to their strategic objectives, often to the detriment of other nations.
The consequences of these actions reverberate throughout Bangladesh. The West’s sanctions on Iran, for instance, have disrupted Bangladesh’s oil imports, significantly impacting one of its key suppliers. These sanctions further prevented Bangladesh from accessing Iranian gas fields in the Persian Gulf, which could have provided an essential source of energy diversification.
The Western support for Myanmar’s strategic economic development has also created challenges for Bangladesh’s energy landscape. Even in the face of protests from Bangladesh, Myanmar awarded lucrative oil and gas exploration blocks to Western companies, including Chevron, Total, and Woodside. Notably, Myanmar’s deep-sea port project in Kyaukpyu, supported by China, raises concerns about further gas exports from the Rakhine state, where the Rohingya minority has faced severe challenges.
Additionally, the Western push for renewable energy technologies has posed new challenges for Bangladesh’s coal sector. As the West leads the charge in combating climate change, it encourages developing nations like Bangladesh to follow suit by financing and supporting renewable energy projects. While this shift is crucial for environmental reasons, it has also dampened demand and prices for coal in the international market. This has, in turn, made it more difficult for Bangladesh to secure funding and environmental clearances for its coal-fired power plants, which are perceived as incongruent with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.
Furthermore, the Western rivalry with global powers like China and Russia has intensified geopolitical competition and instability, particularly in South Asia. The West’s concerns about China’s economic and political influence in Asia and Africa, notably through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have led to efforts to counterbalance these ambitions by strengthening strategic partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. This geopolitical tussle has created new tensions and conflicts in South Asia, where Bangladesh finds itself caught in the crossfire. The nation seeks to maintain a balanced relationship with major powers yet faces mounting pressure to pick sides on various issues.
Bangladesh’s quest for energy security and sustainability is inextricably tied to the complex and dynamic world of geopolitics, geoeconomics, and geostrategy, masterminded primarily by the Western powers. To navigate this intricate landscape, Bangladesh must adopt a proactive and pragmatic approach, utilising its unique position as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia to its advantage. It’s essential to acknowledge that Bangladesh’s branding as one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations can have a discouraging effect on foreign investments. Typically, investors tend to steer clear of regions with such branding. If Bangladesh leans heavily on climate funds and aligns closely with Western narratives regarding their climate agenda’s economic implications, it could face significant challenges in achieving a sovereign energy mix that ensures a balanced energy supply. Such a balanced mix would be less susceptible to the ups and downs of geopolitical turbulence. The energy future of Bangladesh is not merely a challenge; it’s an exhilarating opportunity to seize control of its destiny in a world defined by shifting energy paradigms and geopolitical rivalries.
Written by Rajeev Ahmed
Geopolitical Analyst, Strategic Thinker and Editor at geopolits.com