Gas is currently the dominant source of energy supply in Bangladesh, however, the future reliance on it comes with critical climate, environmental, health, and economic costs, according to a new analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).
The analysis shows that by 2040 emissions affiliated with the production and transport of LNG could make up the bulk 95% of the emissions Bangladesh is responsible for.
This is driven by the shift away from domestic production and toward gas imports. Also, if emissions are not managed properly along the gas value chain, methane can be just as bad, if not worse, than coal for its climate impact.
The US-based organisation stated that this comes at a time when the country and its population are experiencing devastating and disproportionate climate impacts and have expressed their desire to support the Global Methane Pledge – in which signatory countries have committed to reducing the super-potent greenhouse gas by 30% by 2030.
According to the analysis, Bangladesh continues to consume more natural gas than it can produce, so it is increasingly relying on imported LNG to bridge this gap. Currently, over 80% of Bangladesh's gas use comes from local fields.
In 2020, Bangladesh sourced over 4.3 million tonnes of LNG, and as gas demand is expected to rise, LNG imports are expected to increase 50-fold between 2019 and 2040.
The emissions impacting Bangladesh's imports up to 2040 is estimated to be 390–900 MtCO2e, equivalent to more than 100 coal-fired power plants.
The analysis includes key emissions findings, observed trends, and possible trajectories under different energy scenarios utilising estimates derived from the Oil Climate Index plus Gas (OCI+), which leverages satellite data and publicly available data, technical data about oil and gas resources and operations, to evaluate the methane intensity of various oil and gas resources across their entire lifecycle.
Bangladesh expressed its intent to reduce methane emissions in its National Action Plan for Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in 2018.
It has further voiced support but is not yet a participant, in a groundbreaking Global Methane Pledge in 2021 at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.
The currently planned expansions into LNG could be at odds with these national and international commitments.
LNG is a major source of methane, which has 84 times greater global warming potential compared to CO2 over a 20-year timeframe.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said, "It is clear from the analysis that gas, whether in the form of natural gas or LNG, causes multi-dimensional adverse impacts on environment and health along with the economy. Portraying the gas/LNG as a 'cleaner' form of energy or as a 'transitional' form of energy is an attempt not to disclose the facts on gas/LNG in full."
"Perhaps now more than ever, methane matters to countries like Bangladesh and the world. This is because methane emissions are intertwined with fossil fuel production and the risks of fossil fuel dependence have become far too costly," said Frances Reuland, senior associate at RMI and author of the analysis.
Moreover, planned LNG expansion poses several health risks. Across the value chain, there are risks to burning gas because of the toxins it emits into the atmosphere. Children and residents living close to gas infrastructure are some of the most at risk of health problems from LNG.
Hence, shifting away from natural gas and fossil fuel reliance is critical for the country's stability, health, and welfare. Bangladesh is already one of the top ten countries with the worst air pollution, and the health toll from air pollution is a substantial drag on the Bangladeshi economy.