Higher sea temperatures in the Mozambique Channel caused by the climate emergency made the 2019 cyclones Idai and Kenneth particularly devastating. They killed more than 1000 people in Mozambique, displaced 420,000 others, and reconstruction costs were estimated at $3.2 bn.
More than three years later, support from donors and lenders has reached $1.2 bn, Public Works Minister Carlos Mesquita told a meeting of the Post Cyclone Reconstruction Office (GREPOC) in Beira on 27 October. But $2 bn is still unfunded.
Money continues to drift in, but very slowly. GREPOC executive director Luis Mandlate said in September that government has pulled together $42 mn for the reconstruction of 6,672 houses in Beira, starting in November, three and a half years after the cyclone. (Noticias 19 Sept)
Cyclone Ida made a highly unusual loop and hit Beira and central Mozambique twice, on 4 and 15 March 2019. The World Meteorological Organization on 20 March 2019 called it “one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern hemisphere”. Cyclone Kenneth hit Cabo Delgado on 25 April with sustained winds of 220 km/h, making it the most intense cyclone in Mozambican recorded history. (CNN 25 Apr 2019)
Cyclones build up their energy from heat taken from the sea in the Mozambique Channel, and recent research at the University of Cape Town shows that the Mozambique channel is subject to increasing “marine heatwaves”. (Climate Dynamics 2022 number 58) The climate emergency is can be measured by rising sea temperature.
Who pays for climate damage done by the north?
The $3.2 bn damage was done by global heating caused over the past century by the industrialised nations. Mozambique made no contribution to this. Yet it is being asked to pay the cost. For two decades, developed countries, led by Bangladesh, have been pushing for the industrialised countries to pay for the “loss and damage” done by global heating. But at the annual climate talks (known as COP, Conference of the Parties to the 1992 Rio accord) developed countries have consistently refused to acknowledge their responsibility for the harm done by global heating.
At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries committed to providing $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries. The goal was repeated at COP16 in Cancun, and at COP21 in Paris. But the $100 bn target has never been met.
The COP26 talks in Egypt 6-18 November will face a bigger confrontation than in the past. Unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, Nigeria and Australia this year have shown the seriousness of the climate emergency. “We have waged war on nature, and nature is striking back, and striking back in a devastating way,” said UN secretary general António Guterres when he visited Pakistan in September. But the war in Ukraine has provided an excuse for the developed countries to return to fossil fuels, notably gas and coal.
The target is that global heating since the start of the industrial era should be only 1.5ºC, as agreed at the Paris COP21. The latest United Nations estimate, issued 26 October, is a projection of global heating of between 2.1ºC and 2.9º, taking into account all national pledges to reduce emissions. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cma2022_04.pdf
Global heating has already reached 1.2ºC and the floods in Pakistan and cyclones in Mozambique show the damage that is done; even 1.5ºC will make matters worse. More than 2ºC as planned by the industrialised countries will have a devastating impact. Even at 1.2º, Mozambique is still expected to find $2 bn from its own budgets for reconstruction of the damage from cyclones more than three years ago.
Mozambique has made little contribution to global heating so far, but it hopes for a major gas development in Cabo Delgado. And it dreams that significant revenues from the gas, which could begin in a decade, will spur development. But based on the costs of the 2019 cyclones, the gas revenue is unlikely to pay for the damage in Mozambique caused by global heating in the next decade. In addition to stronger cyclones, there will be torrential rains causing damage and floods, and droughts and erratic rainfall will hit farming – before there is any significant income from gas.
Meanwhile the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have made profits of over $173 bn in the first nine months of this year, as Russia’s war on Ukraine pushed up energy prices. The two big players in Mozambique gas are TotalEnergies which made $10 bn in the third quarter (July-September) and ExxonMobil which made $20 bn profit in the third quarter alone. Exxon said it would give $45 bn to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks, compared to $23 bn in capital spending. (Guardian 27 Oct, Financial Times 28 Oct)
Syrah given $220 mn to create 221 US jobs with Mozambique graphite
The US Department of Energy (DoE) announced on 19 October that is has given Syrah Resources $220 mn to expand its factory in Vidalia, Louisiana, USA, which uses graphite from its mine in Balama, Cabo Delgado. The factory expansion will create 221 jobs. The DoE says: “Employing locally, training on-the-job, and progressing through a competency framework will attract and maintain a committed workforce. Syrah’s community strategy includes partnering with over 150 local vendors to prioritize local investments and spending.”
The factory makes active anode material (AAM) for lithium ion batteries. “Syrah’s Vidalia facility will be the only vertically integrated and large-scale natural graphite AAM producer outside China,” says the DoE, reducing the US dependence on China. https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-10/DOE BIL Battery FOA-2678 Selectee Fact Sheets – 1_2.pdf
Such a factory could have been built in Cabo Delgado. “Battery graphite does require some processing, mostly to get the right particle size and purity, but in principle can be processed anywhere with the right infrastructure. The key as always is economics and political will,” says Dr Billy Wu, a senior lecturer at Imperial College London in the Dyson School of Design Engineering, and is an expert in batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors.