Rystad Energy: Oil demand to grow in the mid-term

Oil demand will rise further in the medium term, according to Rystad Energy research and modelling, as low-carbon alternatives are not yet sufficiently developed or economically competitive to offset the growing demand for transportation and industrial services. Rystad Energy’s latest Oil Macro Scenarios report explains how the 13 sectors that rely on oil will face a more complex transition than expected just a couple of years ago. These findings underscore the notion that oil demand remains sticky and the process of substituting the capital stock associated with oil consumption will be complex and lengthy due to the competitive advantages of oil in multiple transportation sectors and industrial processes.

The research evaluates the five-year demand trajectory of oil, the technological readiness of each sector to transition and the policy frameworks supporting that shift. Rystad Energy’s analysis sheds light on the impact of crucial breakthroughs, such as the rapid electrification of buses, rail and cars, as well as the challenges faced by the remaining sectors that lack fully developed or competitive alternative technologies.

“As oil demand is likely to stay on an upward trajectory in the medium term, the probability of a fast transition away from oil decreases unless we witness breakthroughs in those low-carbon energy carriers that can technically and economically substitute oil. Our updated mid-term forecast should bring a dose of realism to the oil transition narrative, alongside a renewed sense of urgency to explore and invest even more – wherever it makes economic sense – in clean tech and renewables, to achieve those breakthroughs,” says Claudio Galimberti, global market analysis director at Rystad Energy.

Transportation

About a quarter of global oil demand comes from passenger road transportation, so it is no surprise that the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), which comprise both battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in-hybrid (PHEV), is a key factor to estimate the oil demand impact. EVs have risen since 2018, making up 16% of global sales in 2022. However, last year saw an inflection point – with global EV sales landing only at 19% – due to a combination of lack of mass-market EVs outside of China, poor charging infrastructure, low consumer acceptance in some regions, charging insecurity, and the withdrawal of subsidies in some countries.

Despite these challenges, Rystad Energy still predicts that the electrification of passenger road transport will regain force in the second half of this decade and beyond. Car manufacturers have committed to producing tens of millions of EVs in the coming years, which will bring about economies of scale. Still, it is important to note that some of these plans have recently been scaled back due to poor returns on investment. In the end, one big problem will need to be solved: the ;charging insecurity; in areas where car owners do not own private parking spots. This phenomenon is particularly acute in many non-OECD countries and in quite a few OECD ones as well.

Beyond passenger road transport, the transition to alternative energy sources faces headwinds. In heavy-duty commercial road transport, oil demand is expected to grow in line with the expansion of the global economy, especially in Asia, as alternatives to oil remain limited. As an example, batteries are still too heavy and large to fit in a Class 8 truck and, even if they did, it would take too long to charge them. Battery swapping, a process where batteries with low charge get replaced with fully charged ones at specialised stations, has shown promise in China, but it is still a tiny fraction of the electric truck fleet. Catenary and induction charging – methods of charging electric vehicles while they are in motion – could be a solution, but they are currently too expensive. Granted, Volvo and Tesla have started the production and delivery of electric semitrucks, but the numbers are still small and will continue to be so in the medium term.

The maritime industry shares many of the same challenges as heavy-duty trucks. Shipping large cargo across the seas efficiently and affordably requires a fuel with high energy density, safe storage and transport and a well-established supply chain. While alternatives like ammonia and methanol may satisfy some of these requirements, they are yet to outcompete oil on key metrics like affordability and energy density. Furthermore, the fast aging of the global maritime fleet is set to slow down the fleet turnover.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional jet fuel. Although SAF has the potential to grow significantly in the aviation industry during the 2030s and beyond, it will not significantly impact aviation in the next five years. Despite major commitments from airlines and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Corsia programme, SAF’s share will be less than 5% of jet fuel demand by the end of this decade. This translates to less than 0.4% of global oil demand.

Buses and rail transportation do not have to wait for alternatives as they are already available and proving to be highly effective. The recent electrification trend in these two sectors in China, India and Europe will continue in the coming years, thanks to government policies. However, even if these two sectors were to be fully electrified in the next 15 years, the maximum reduction in oil demand by 2030 would only be around 0.5 – 0.8 million bpd since they currently represent less than 3% of oil demand.

Stationary sectors

The stationary sectors, which include petrochemical, industry, building, non-energy use, energy own use, power and agriculture, account for 42.3% of global oil demand as of 2024 and are vital components of the energy transition. In the petrochemical sector, demand for plastics is set to surge in the coming years – on the back of an expanding global middle class – and oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) will be the feedstock used to produce plastic. To reduce demand for virgin feedstock, mechanical and chemical recycling rates must increase. However, higher investment in the recycling supply chain, as well as research and development, are needed to achieve this. It is important to recall that global plastic recycling rates are currently only 8% of total plastic consumption, with scant evidence that they could increase significantly by the end of the decade.

Oil demand in the building sector has proven more resilient than expected just a few years ago. In regions where the natural gas grid is not available and winters are long and frigid, oil – in the form of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene or gasoil – remains the most efficient energy carrier for space and water heating. Heat-pumps, which are typically very efficient for space heating in milder climates, tend to have a reduced effectiveness in very cold regions. Finally, in countries that still rely on burning biomass for cooking, such as sub-Saharan Africa, LPG could be a cleaner energy carrier, which could result in a 1.5 million bpd uptick in oil consumption.

High energy density is essential in the industry sector to achieve the high temperatures required for operations such as steelmaking, cement production, petrochemicals, and refining subsectors. Although hydrogen is considered the most viable low-carbon energy carrier alternative to oil, it is unlikely to become a strong competitor in the next five years due to high costs and lack of a developed supply chain.

Rystad Energy’s research confirms that oil demand remains sticky and it will take time and resources to switch the capital stock associated with its consumption. It also reminds us of the importance of understanding the whole energy system end-to-end, and not just the oil system. Lowering global emissions is still possible in the medium term if other energy sectors deploy clean technology and renewables at a faster pace. In this context, the rapid deployment of solar PV in power generation, displacing coal, has done just that over the past few years. As a result, a fast reduction in global emissions is still within reach, despite climbing oil demand.

Read the article online at: https://www.oilfieldtechnology.com/special-reports/16052024/rystad-energy-oil-demand-to-grow-in-the-mid-term/



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Abandoned at sea, part 1: Syrian crew stranded for two years at Libyan port

Our team has obtained rare footage from sailors abandoned by their employers years ago, leaving them far from their homes in ports or open water. During this three-month investigation, we looked at official documents and contracts provided by crewmembers as well as open-source data to trace the navigation history of these dilapidated vessels before their abandonment. The first part of this special edition, produced in partnership with independent Syrian investigators SIRAJ, reveals a complex set-up of shell companies used by a group of Syrian-Romanian ship owners to evade legal disputes and Western sanctions.

When the East Express, a 97-metre general cargo ship flying the flag of Togo, docked in the Libyan port of Misrata on January 18, 2022, its crew thought they would offload their cargo of sugar and move on. But the port authorities declared the sugar unfit for consumption and impounded the ship. The crew have been there ever since -– two years and counting.

This legal impediment prevented the delivery of the sugar to its Libyan purchaser, eventually leading the ship’s registered owner, Mina Shipping Ltd., to  abandon the vessel with its 12-member crew still on board: ten Syrians, one Egyptian and one Indian. 

‘We don’t have any food, or water, or wages’

The East Express is capable of carrying more than 5,000 tons of goods, fuel, and ballast. Ammar Sheikha, one of the Syrian sailors stranded on the East Express, explains:

For me, ‘abandonment’ means asking for food, drinks and daily necessities, and not being able to get them from the ship’s owners and manager.

He declared in a video that he sent us in September 2023 that the crew had been “completely abandoned” by the company. “We have no food, no water, and no salaries,” he told us. 

The crew contacted ITF Seafarers, a transport workers’ union that provides assistance to the crews of abandoned ships, but say they did not hear back for months.

Ian Ralby, an expert in international maritime law, explains what abandonment is:

Abandonment is when a vessel owner literally abandons the claims to a vessel. It can mean that the crew is left without anyone who actually has legal responsibility for ensuring that they get the fuel, the food, the water and all the services that they need.

With no fuel or electricity, life on board quickly became unbearable. Sheikha told us:

We began to suffer from a lack of supplies and money … We spend most of our time sleeping or on our mobile phones. This is our only distraction. We talk to our families and friends until the day is over.

The crew have not been paid in 12 months. They believe that staying on board is the only way they’ll get their money. At one point, Sheikha says, the company owed him $17,000. When it arrived in Misrata, the East Express flew the flag of Togo, West Africa. Publicly available maritime registries like Marine Traffic and EQUASIS indicate that it was owned by Romania-based Mina Shipping Ltd.

When we contacted Mina Shipping at the Romanian number that appeared on the sailors’ contracts, a woman who said she was a former employee told us: “Mina Shipping is an offshore company whose owner died years ago.” 

The ship’s captain told us that the owner of Mina Shipping is a man named Samir Fahel, from Tartus, Syria.

Posts shared by his family show that Mr. Fahel died in February 2023. 

A former life under a different name

Fahel regularly posted pictures of ships. One in particular caught our attention: the Nadalina.


In this photo posted by Mina Shipping owner Samir Fahel, the Nadalina is seen after a refit at a ship repair yard in the port of Navodari, Romania, in 2019. © Photo shared on Samir Fahel’s Facebook page in 2016.

We looked up the Nadalina using its IMO number (every ship has a unique identification number issued by the International Maritime Organization). It turns out that the Nadalina is the same ship as the East Express, abandoned in Misrata. 

Ship owners and operators regularly change not only their names, but also the countries in which they are registered as well as the companies that manage and own them. Industry analysts say the complex ownership structure makes it easier for ship owners and operators to walk away when a ship encounters legal or financial problems. “It’s sometimes better to abandon an asset than to retain it and have the liability for it,” says Ralby.

The East Express (IMO number 8215754) has had three different names in the last seven years.
The East Express (IMO number 8215754) has had three different names in the last seven years. © Ammar Sheikha (left), Marine Traffic / Babur Haluluport (center/right ).

Tracking the ‘Nadalina’: history of sanctions violations

Ships must broadcast regular signals intended to ensure the safety of navigational traffic, and sites such as MarineTraffic pick up these signals to plot their locations. FRANCE 24 used the data – nearly 3,000 daily locations over eight years – to track the Nadalina’s movements from 2016 to 2023.

The data shows that the ship made regular trips in the Mediterranean, including to Tunisia, Libya and the Russian-managed port of Tartus in Syria and through Turkey to the Black Sea, coming and going from the Romanian port of Constanta.

The Nadalina’s route in the Mediterranean between 2016 and 2023 shows that it made regular visits to the Russian-managed Syrian port of Tartus.
The Nadalina’s route in the Mediterranean between 2016 and 2023 shows that it made regular visits to the Russian-managed Syrian port of Tartus. © FRANCE 24 Observers

It also reveals that the Nadalina made trips to the so-called “closed ports” of the Crimean Peninsula.

The Nadalina’s route in the Black Sea between 2016 and 2019 shows that it made regular visits to the so-called
The Nadalina’s route in the Black Sea between 2016 and 2019 shows that it made regular visits to the so-called “closed” ports of the Crimean peninsula placed under international sanctions following Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian territory in 2014. © FRANCE 24 Observers

Ukraine banned international cargo carriers from docking at Crimean ports after Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula in 2014. The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on ships visiting Crimea.

Ukrainian and international media outlets documented at least 10 visits by the Nadalina to sanctioned Crimean ports between 2015 and 2019. 

“We found a group of ships that regularly visited the closed ports in Crimea,” says Kateryna Yaresko, an online investigator with the Myrotvets Center’s Seakrime project who has extensively worked on the Nadalina question. “They were connected to a group of Romanian-Syrian businessmen based in Constanta, Romania. This group was the worst offender.”

With her team, she obtained photographs showing the Nadalina docked illegally in Crimean ports such as Sevastopol and Feodosia between 2015 and 2019, and being loaded with cargoes of scrap metal or grain.

The Nadalina docked at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on December 27, 2018 and was loaded with a cargo of scrap metal.
The Nadalina docked at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on December 27, 2018 and was loaded with a cargo of scrap metal. © Seakrime, Myrotvorets Center

The Ukrainian investigators reported that the Nadalina was part of a group of ships operated by a company called Bia Shipping Co.

A shipping registry in 2015 gave Bia Shipping’s contact info as addresses at “joharshipping.ro”.

While “joharshipping.ro” is no longer online, we recovered versions of the site via an internet archive. The archived site belonged to a company called Johar Shipping and listed at least five of the ships operated by Bia Shipping Company. 


© France 24 Observers

Both this site and another Johar Shipping Co. archived site called “johar.ro” listed a man called “Adnan Hassan” as managing director, and “Johar Hassan” as in charge of general operations. 


© FRANCE 24 Observers

We found Adnan Hassan’s social media accounts. One clip he shared on Facebook shows him relaxing on board an 18-metre yacht with Johar Hassan, his brother. Photos also showed him with Samir Fahel.

This photo posted on the Facebook account of Samir Fahel in 2017 shows him in the company of Adnan Hassan.
This photo posted on the Facebook account of Samir Fahel in 2017 shows him in the company of Adnan Hassan. © Photo shareb on Samir Fahel’s Facebook page on 2017

The families respond

We repeatedly tried to contact the companies associated with the Hassan brothers and Fahel, using all the email addresses and phone numbers that we were able to find. 

A member of Fahel’s family told us that after his death, the family was still responsible for the East Express. She said a family member was assigned to manage the ship and assured us he would give an interview for our investigation. She gave us an email address that she said was for the family company Mina Shipping, but neither she nor the family responded to subsequent requests.

Adnan Hassan confirmed to us in a series of telephone interviews that he and his brother Johar had owned Johar Shipping Co. He said their company had acted as an agent for the ship on at least one occasion during the 2015 to 2019 period when it was known as the Nadalina and visited the closed ports of Crimea. He said they did not follow politics and were unaware that the Crimean ports were sanctioned, and that the visits to Crimea by the Nadalina and other ships they handled stopped after Romanian authorities investigated Johar Shipping. 

The Romanian Foreign Ministry confirmed having investigated the Nadalina’s visits to Crimea. “A check was performed on the financial transactions of companies connected to this ship,” they wrote. “The competent authorities concluded that there was not enough evidence that said payments constituted breaches of the prohibition.” They said they had notified “the economic operators involved of the risks of infringing the restrictive measures on the illegal annexation of Crimea”, and that Romania “strongly condemns” Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine”. 

Regarding the ship’s current status as the East Express and the plight of its crew in Libya, Adnan Hassan said the ship was owned by Samir Fahel and Mina Shipping. He said he was a friend of Fahel’s, but had no business relationship with him or Mina Shipping. He said the family contacted him seven months after Fahel’s death. “I wanted to be of help to his family to help them get the ship released,” he told us. “But I learned that the ship’s debts were greater than its value … I told the crew: ‘I will pay your wages only if the ship leaves the port, and I can examine it. That’s when you’ll get paid. Something to help you out.’”

Four crew members repatriated; seven remain on board 

The crew told us they had received small payments from Fahel before his death but had never received their full salaries. 

After FRANCE 24 contacted the ITF Seafarers union to inquire about the fate of the East Express crew, Sheikha told us the union agreed to send some money to cover his flight back to Syria. He sent us a message from the airport: “I can’t believe I’m on the way back home to my family after two years of suffering – without any savings. It’s tragic!” 

As of publication, Sheikha and three of his companions have returned to Syria, while seven of their companions remain on board the ship.


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It’s time to hang up on the old telecoms rulebook

Joakim Reiter | via Vodafone

Around 120 years ago, Guglielmo Marconi planted the seeds of a communications revolution, sending the first message via a wireless link over open water. “Are you ready? Can you hear me?”, he said. Now, the telecommunications industry in Europe needs policymakers to heed that call, to realize the vision set by its 19th-century pioneers.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution. Mobile networks are becoming programmable platforms — supercomputers that will fundamentally underpin European industrial productivity, growth and competitiveness. Combined with cloud, AI and the internet of things, the era of industrial internet will transform our economy and way of life, bringing smarter cities, energy grids and health care, as well as autonomous transport systems, factories and more to the real world.

5G is already connecting smarter, autonomous factory technologies | via Vodafone

Europe should be at the center of this revolution, just as it was in the early days of modern communications.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution.

Even without looking at future applications, the benefits of a healthy telecoms industry for society are clear to see. Mobile technologies and services generated 5 percent of global GDP, equivalent to €4.3 trillion, in 2021. More than five billion people around the world are connected to mobile services — more people today have access to mobile communications than they do to safely-managed sanitation services. And with the combination of satellite solutions, the prospect of ensuring every person on the planet is connected may soon be within reach.

Satellite solutions, combined with mobile communications, could eliminate coverage gaps | via Vodafone

In our recent past, when COVID-19 spread across the world and societies went into lockdown, connectivity became critical for people to work from home, and for enabling schools and hospitals to offer services online.  And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when millions were forced to flee the safety of their homes, European network operators provided heavily discounted roaming and calling to ensure refugees stayed connected with loved ones.

A perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe.

These are all outcomes and opportunities, depending on the continuous investment of telecoms’ private companies.

And yet, a perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe. The war on our continent triggered a 15-fold increase in wholesale energy prices and rapid inflation. EU telecoms operators have been under pressure ever since to keep consumer prices low during a cost-of-living crisis, while confronting rapidly growing operational costs as a result. At the same time, operators also face the threat of billions of euros of extra, unforeseen costs as governments change their operating requirements in light of growing geopolitical concerns.

Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The odds are dangerously stacked against the long-term sustainability of our industry and, as a result, Europe’s own digital ambitions. Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The signs of Europe’s decline are obvious for those willing to take a closer look. European countries are lagging behind in 5G mobile connectivity, while other parts of the world — including Thailand, India and the Philippines — race ahead. Independent research by OpenSignal shows that mobile users in South Korea have an active 5G connection three times more often than those in Germany, and more than 10 times their counterparts in Belgium.

Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Average 5G connectivity in Brazil is more than three times faster than in Czechia or Poland. A recent report from the European Commission — State of the Digital Decade (europa.eu) shows just how far Europe needs to go to reach the EU’s connectivity targets for 2030.

To arrest this decline, and successfully meet EU’s digital ambitions, something has got to give. Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Competition, innovation and efficient investment are the driving forces for the telecoms sector today. It’s time to unleash these powers — not blindly perpetuate old rules. We agree with Commissioner Breton’s recent assessment: Europe needs to redefine the DNA of its telecoms regulation. It needs a new rulebook that encourages innovation and investment, and embraces the logic of a true single market. It must reduce barriers to growth and scale in the sector and ensure spectrum — the lifeblood of our industry — is managed more efficiently. And it must find faster, futureproofed ways to level the playing field for all business operating in the wider digital sector.  

But Europe is already behind, and we are running out of time. It is critical that the EU finds a balance between urgent, short-term measures and longer-term reforms. It cannot wait until 2025 to implement change.

Europeans deserve better communications technology | via Vodafone

When Marconi sent that message back in 1897, the answer to his question was, “loud and clear”. As Europe’s telecoms ministers convene this month in León, Spain, their message must be loud and clear too. European citizens and businesses deserve better communications. They deserve a telecoms rulebook that ensures networks can deliver the next revolution in digital connectivity and services.



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Kinshasa residents terrified by rising number of public transportation kidnappings

Twenty-seven people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping passengers who had the misfortune of getting into their fake taxis. But despite this mass sentencing, which took place between July 5 and 7, people in Kinshasa are still terrified by the rising number of kidnappings taking place on public transport. The police, however, are downplaying the alarming situation, calling them “ordinary security issues”.

Twenty-seven people were sentenced to death, only to have their sentences commuted to life in prison, at the end of a kidnapping trial that took place between July 5 and 7 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where capital punishment is no longer carried out. The members of this kidnapping network, which included four police officers, were found guilty of kidnapping a number of locals who climbed into their fake taxis, stealing their valuables and holding them for ransom. The group was also found responsible for killing a number of their victims.

The case has been extensively covered by the Congolese media. Images of the arrests were circulated online. The police also organised a strange sort of press conference where they lined up the 27 people arrested to show them off to the press and the Ministry of the Interior (videos on Facebook and TikTok). 

 

“They drugged me with a handkerchief and then beat me”

Romulus Mwamba works as an independent tour operator and lives in the Limete neighborhood. He believes that the group recently sentenced to prison are just a “tiny percentage” of the kidnappers operating in the capital. He should know. Mwamba was kidnapped on July 1 and survived a terrifying ordeal – and he didn’t recognise any of his attackers among those convicted. 

I was coming back from a meeting with a client in the Kasa-Vubu neighborhood and I got into a communal taxi in Victoire to head to my next meeting. It was nearly full. There were two boys and a girl in the third row and two hefty guys in the second row. I got in front. Very soon after we set off, I realised that I wasn’t going towards the right address. 

Mwamba decided to text his brother-in-law. 

“I’m in a taxi and I don’t feel safe,” he messaged him on WhatsApp.

 

This is the message sent by Romulus Mwamba (nicknamed Romy) to his brother-in-law on July 1. In the message, he says that he doesn’t feel safe. © Observers

Romy also managed to film a quick video of the people in the vehicule, which he also sent to his brother-in-law. 

 

La vidéo envoyée par Romulus Mwamba à son beau-frère le 1er juillet.
La vidéo envoyée par Romulus Mwamba à son beau-frère le 1er juillet. © Observateurs

 

However, at one point, the man next to me noticed that I was filming. He took my phone and threw it on the ground, trying to break it. I tried to break a window and started making noise to get people’s attention. But I didn’t manage to struggle for long because the people behind me grabbed me and drugged me with a handkerchief. Then they put me in the back so they could beat me up. 

Mwamba woke up several hours later. He was lying on the side of the road in a town called Maluku, more than an hour and a half away from his departure point. He was covered in bruises. A passerby helped him to call his family, who came to pick him up.

They stole my house keys, my watch, my sneakers and my wallet, which contained a large sum of money belonging to my client. Thankfully, he was understanding.  

Since then, his family has filed a complaint with the authorities. Mwamba is terrified to take public transportation. 

What happened to me was in the middle of the day, with lots of people around. Since then, I don’t want to leave my house. 

“I tried to say to them, ‘let me live, take my car’ but I couldn’t get it out”

The issue of kidnappings taking place in public transportation isn’t new. In early 2022, Jeannot Kabuayi [Editor’s note: this is a pseudonym, used because the investigation is still underway] fell victim to an attempted kidnapping. This time, the modus operandi was a bit different:

I was driving alone around 1am along the 30-Juin boulevard in the centre of town when I came across a taxi ketch [Editor’s note: a type of communal taxi common in Kinshasa.] Inside, there was a woman doubled over in pain along with two young men. I stopped and asked what was going on. They told me that they were bringing the young woman to the hospital but that the taxi had broken down. They asked if I could bring her to Diamant hospital. Acting as a good Samaritan, I agreed to take her.

A few seconds later, Jeannot was being strangled by an electrical cord around his neck, cutting into his flesh. The people tried to take his car.

I tried to say to them, “let me live, take my car” but I couldn’t get it out. Finally, they got ahold of the steering wheel but I hit the button to cut the motor. We lost control of the car and ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. A jeep full of police officers pulled up but the criminals got out of the car and climbed back into the ketch, which had been following us, and left. 

They stole all of the valuables that Kabuayi had with him. He wasn’t able to pick up his wrecked car until the next day, after getting a check-up at the hospital. 

This is a screengrab of a video of Kabuayi’s car the day after he was attacked. “This papa [Editor’s note: older man] is protected by God,” says a woman in Lingala.
This is a screengrab of a video of Kabuayi’s car the day after he was attacked. “This papa [Editor’s note: older man] is protected by God,” says a woman in Lingala. © Observers

Kabuayi still has a scar around his neck where the cord cut into his flesh. He no longer wants to take a ketch or help anyone in distress on the road. He filed a complaint with the authorities but no charges have been filed. 

Kabuayi shows the scar on his neck that he got when he was attacked and choked.
Kabuayi shows the scar on his neck that he got when he was attacked and choked. © Observers

 

“When the bus started, about half of the people on board got out weapons”

Kidnappings are also taking place on the city’s minibuses. Another Kinshasa resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told us about what happened to his friend in late June. She was kidnapped from a minibus in the Masina neighborhood on the east side of town.

There were 12 of them in the minibus. When the bus started, about half of the people on board got out weapons. They told everyone else to put their hands in the air before covering people with clothing so they couldn’t see where they were going.  

The young woman managed to send him a panicked voice message. He shared it with our team. 

“Please, pray for me. […] I just lifted up the sheet to record this message and I already sent it to the big sister, to everyone. We were headed towards Kapela [Editor’s note: a neighbourhood in the western part of Kinshasa], […] We are still going, I don’t know where we are.” 

She sent that message at about 5pm. After that, he wasn’t able to contact her. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that she reappeared back in her neighbourhood. She said she was finally released around 4am. 

She was blindfolded and he [the kidnapper] took her by the hand. “Keep going, if you turn around, I will kill you,” he said. She was dropped in a deserted location and it took her ages to walk back to her house.

A growing fear about public transportation in Kinshasa

Stories of kidnappings as well the extensive media coverage of the trial of the 27 kidnappers has created growing fear among the population about using public transportation. Some people have started filming whenever they are in a taxi as a security measure. 

The video below shows a man hailing a taxi in the north of Kinshasa. He examines the other passengers and sees that there is only one open spot inside. He refuses to get in and the driver drives off. 

“When kidnappers get shun[ned]”, commented Cedoux Muke, the person who filmed this video. Our team spoke to him and he said he was sure that he narrowly avoided kidnappers even though he doesn’t have proof. 

“That taxi didn’t have plates and the people inside seemed strange to me,” he said. 

 

Muke says that the growing fear about kidnappings has led, in some cases, to mob justice in his neighbourhood, Kimbanseke. 

On July 7, police in my neighbourhood arrested a mama [Editor’s note: name used to refer to an older woman] with seven children in her car. She was accused of working with the driver to try and kidnap them. A lot of people tried to get her out of the police’s grasp in order to beat her up. 

The recent spate of kidnappings has also fed into rumours of organ trafficking. Terrified people are sharing information about these rumours in WhatsApp groups, often citing as “proof” videos taken out of context showing people cut up as if to extract organs. One of the videos that has been circulating was not filmed in the DRC – it shows the revenge killing of a police officer and his son carried out by a Mexican cartel, and has been circulating online for years. 

 

Nothing but “ordinary security issues,” according to police 

On July 4, Information Minister Patrick Muyaya told people “not to fall victim to rumours” about what he called “ordinary security issues”.

“The police is working day and night to make sure that the criminals, wherever they operate, are captured,” he said. “That’s also the case for kidnappers.” He added that police hadn’t seen proof of “organ trafficking, which is being talked about on social media and in certain circles”.

Police in Kinshasa reported a dozen or so cases of kidnappings from public transport in June alone. It is likely that more occurred but were not reported.  

Our team contacted the head of police in Kinshasa but didn’t get a response. 

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The EU greenwashed fossil gas. Today, we are suing.

Last July, EU policymakers decided to greenwash fossil gas. Today, the WWF European Policy Office, Client Earth, BUND and Transport & Environment are taking them to the European Court of Justice.

We are doing it to reassert a basic truth: all fossil fuels are dangerous for the planet. Only last summer, European cities baked under fierce heatwaves, rivers across our continent ran dry, and whole swathes of France, Spain, and Portugal were burned by unprecedented wildfires. In the midst of this devastation, the EU approved a new chapter of its supposed green investment guidebook — the EU Taxonomy — which stated that fossil gas-fired electricity is ‘green’. In fact, fossil gas is a fossil fuel that can cause plumes of methane that harm the climate just as badly as coal.

However, under the guise of climate action, the gas Taxonomy could divert tens of billions of euros from green projects into the very fossil fuels which are causing those heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires. This is while scientific experts at the International Energy Agency and the United Nations continue to stress that we must halt any expansion of fossil fuels and invest exclusively in developing clean energy sources. Even the EU’s own experts have said we must use much less gas by 2030. The gas Taxonomy is not just at odds with the science: it also flies in the face of market dynamics. Renewable investments across the world reached $500 billion last year, which shows that there is already a massive, readily available alternative to gas-fired power.

For all these reasons, having previously filed a request for the Commission to review the gas Taxonomy, we are filing a case at the CJEU today. We will argue that the gas Taxonomy, and the Commission’s refusal to review it, clash with the European Climate Law, the precautionary principle, and the Taxonomy Regulation — the law on which the Taxonomy is built. It also undermines the EU’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. We expect a judgment within the next two years.

Fossil gas at the heart of two European crises

Europe faces two interlocking crises: an inflation crisis and a climate crisis. Fossil gas is at the heart of both. Had we decided to invest with more determination in renewables and energy efficiency even just 10 years ago, our continent would not have been so dependent on energy imports. We would not have faced such great spikes in energy and food prices, which disproportionately hurt our poorest citizens. We would be closer to meeting our Paris Agreement goals.

Instead,  largely due to decades of industry pressure — the gas lobby spends up to €78 million a year in Brussels alone — our continent has remained extremely dependent on destructive fossil fuels. That dependency must end. It is high time to direct billions of euros into installing more renewables more quickly, with a focus on secure, cheap wind and solar power. It is time to expand the technologies to back them up, such as building insulation, energy storage, and strong grids. And above all, it is time to stop the lie that putting money into any fossil fuel will help the green transition. That is the purpose of our legal case.

Policymakers and financial institutions beware

EU policymakers are increasingly inserting references to the EU Taxonomy into other policies. If our case is successful, and the Taxonomy’s gas criteria are overturned, any legislation tying gas financing to the Taxonomy would become inapplicable.

Policymakers beware: the Taxonomy is on shaky ground, and you should not use it to justify new gas investments. Fossil fuel companies that get hooked on green funding will face a rude awakening if our legal case cuts that support off. They may even incur steep losses if they have made investments based on EU policies only to find that gas has been struck out of them.

Fossil fuel companies that get hooked on green funding will face a rude awakening if our legal case cuts that support off.

Financial institutions also face real reputational, financial and legal risks from the gas Taxonomy. Fossil gas is excluded from the global green bond market. Leading institutions such as the European Investment Bank or the Dutch pension federation have openly criticized the Taxonomy’s greenwashing. What is more, taxonomies in several other countries exclude fossil gas-fired power, so the European one lags behind. Any financial institution that uses the EU Taxonomy to justify investing in fossil gas assets therefore risks direct, robust and repeated attacks on its reputation.

The inexorable public policy shift towards energy efficiency and renewables, and the plummeting price of wind and solar power, have made fossil gas-fired power uncompetitive. Investments in more fossil gas, even if encouraged by the EU Taxonomy, would quickly result in stranded assets and could even cause billion-euro losses. Financial institutions must guard against these risks by stopping their support for gas expansion now.

Finally, if our case is successful, financial institutions could find they have purchased or sold products mislabeled as ‘green’. They must be careful to verify the legal consequences of such an event, particularly for its impact on any climate claims they have made.

Our message to the EU

Policymakers and financial institutions should note that the Taxonomy faces four further court cases: one from the governments of Austria and Luxembourg, one from Greenpeace, one from the Trinational Association for Nuclear Protection (ATPN) and another from MEP René Repasi. The EU’s greenwashing is now being discredited from all sides – amongst scientists, in financial markets, and soon, we expect, by the judiciary.

Our message to the EU is simple: do not help fossil lobbyists to block our continent’s move to clean, cheap and secure energy. If you do, we will meet you head-on.

Victor Hugo once said that nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. Today, despite much fossil fuel lobbying, denial and delay, it is the turn of the green transition. Our message to the EU is simple: do not help fossil lobbyists to block our continent’s move to clean, cheap and secure energy. If you do, we will meet you head-on.

See you in court.



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