Mozambique’s bizarre climate odyssey

Climate Voices

Mozambique’s bizarre climate odyssey

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Africa’s newest petrostate. What does it all mean?

When I was in college, we were taught that Europe’s former colonies were the “Third World,” now known as the Global South. As the climate crisis accelerates, I believe we have created a “Fourth World” — a group of desperately poor countries with a minimal carbon footprint, but experiencing the brunt of physical climate damage.

There is no better example than the Republic of Mozambique, located in southeast Africa off the rapidly warming Indian Ocean — with Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe and South Africa to the southwest.

The East Africa climate hot zone

Despite an abundance of resources, Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries, regularly swinging from short-lived, credit-fueled resource extraction booms to teetering on the brink of default.

Mozambique is now further burdened by a new economic woe: climate change. What little national infrastructure it has is being pulverized by 100-year storms that have been happening every year since 2019. For example, this year, storms have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, damaged 31,375 buildings, 1,041 classrooms, and hundreds of miles of roads, including seven bridges and 41 aqueducts. And this is not a particularly bad year.

This is the kind of economic damage that the country can ill afford. The World Bank estimates that climate shocks will lower Mozambique’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.5 percent in 2025 and could shrink its economy by more than 13 percent by 2050.

Change is in the air

This is what makes Mozambique’s recent decision to begin exporting Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) so fascinating. Overnight, it has gone from a credit deadbeat to Africa’s newest petrostate. But what was once seen as a sensible national energy project, is now seen by many as a weapon of mass climate destruction as more than five trillion cubic meters of gas is expected to be extracted.

What was once seen as a sensible national energy project, is now seen by many as a weapon of mass climate destruction.

Mozambique’s ticket to economic sovereignty — and climate chaos

For years, activists have tried in vain to block the $60 billion offshore gas project. Their case against international fossil fuel companies is well understood.

More challenging is to argue that Mozambique can do without the gas. Without it, senior government officials argue, Mozambique has little hope of ever breaking the bonds of structural underdevelopment. Gas, they say, is the country’s ticket to future prosperity and economic sovereignty. So turning to methane gas is a bet Mozambique is willing to take – even if it means having to absorb blow after blow of increasingly devastating super cyclones and droughts caused, in part, by the gas it now exports.


To understand the government’s logic, it is necessary to understand just how bad life has been in Mozambique in recent years.

Like so many former African colonies, Mozambique got off to a very rough start after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 following a brutal war for independence. But it soon found itself fighting an equally vicious proxy war against the then-White-ruled neighbors, South Africa and Rhodesia, both of whom were determined to destabilize their Black African neighbor to preserve White rule.

If that was not bad enough, Mozambique’s strategic trading location on Africa’s East Coast and a minuscule armed forces meant the country’s vast jungles in the north were soon overrun by a local gangs, Jihadists, arms dealers, poachers and smugglers, mercenaries and narco-terrorist drug syndicates from as far away as Mexico and Brazil.

Mozambique finds itself beholden to Western interests in order to establish its own economic sovereignty.

Mercenary paradise

All have been brazenly looting the nation’s spoils — rare gems, rich mineral deposits, tropical timber, or vying for control of a vital link in the world’s heroin supply chain. With a barely functioning local government, anything seems to go, including human slavery and sex trafficking. Wildlife has been slaughtered to the point that elephants are evolving not to have ivory tusks.

The government hopes to use gas revenue to restore order. But there is an even bigger problem. It will be years before Mozambique can cash in on this gas bonanza because the LNG deals are structured so that most of the revenue for Mozambique comes in the mid-2030s and 2040s.

So once again, Mozambique finds itself beholden to Western interests in order to establish its own economic sovereignty. That is a precarious position to be in particularly in the era of climate change.

Featured photo: Mozambique LNG

Written by

Peter McKillop

Peter McKillop is the founder of Climate & Capital Media, a mission-driven information platform exploring the business and finance of climate change.