BY MADUABUCHI EFEGADI
Climate justice activists in Africa have strongly opposed the call by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicating that the global energy crisis necessitates measures to urgently scale up cheap and clean energy sources in Africa. The climate justice activists maintained that the move is tantamount to a surprise “change of tune from IEA’s own report on Net Zero by 2050, which called for no new investment in fossil fuels”.
The IEA in its Africa Energy Outlook 2022 report acknowledged the huge potential in the renewable energy sector on the continent, observing that an annual investment of $25 billion is needed to deliver universal energy access in Africa by 2030.
It also revealed that it would require over $190 billion each year from 2026 to 2030, with two-thirds going to clean energy on Africa’s climate finance to enable the continent meet its energy needs and climate goals. And that Africa’s industrialisation relies in part on expanding gas use.
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But climate justice activists say it is “concerning” that IEA is making a sudden change of pathway suggesting fossil fuel investment in Africa, a continent most vulnerable to climate change, in the year of the UN climate talks, COP27, being held in Africa.
According to African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa is losing up to $15 billion annually from the vagaries of climate change. If things remain unchecked, the cost could rise to $50 billion by 2040, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.
Some of the effects include locust swarms devastating thousands of hectares of crop land in East Africa, perennial droughts and encroaching deserts that lay bare the vulnerability of the Sahel of Africa, scorching lives into misery and driving migration, and inundation of coastal towns and villages.
The climate justice activists, among them 350Africa.org, stressed that the push for gas expansion in Africa does not align with the pathway to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees; as it would only further the interests of the fossil fuel industry and the developed nations, at the risk of impoverishing African nations.
“Pushing for the exploitation of gas in Africa will primarily benefit the fossil fuel industry and western societies (who are) seeking to fill the gap left by current shortages from Russia, while failing to meet the real and pressing energy needs of ordinary people,” said Landry Ninteretse, regional director of 350Africa.org.
“Rather than engaging in opportunistic and exploitative pursuit of fossil fuels from Africa, developed countries historically responsible for the climate crisis should massively increase their financing of ambitious renewable energy plans that respect the social, economic and environmental rights of Africans. In its own report, last year, the IEA called for no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects. Climate and energy crises are caused by the continued dependence and addiction to fossil fuels,” Ninteretse said.
The 350Africa.org regional director noted that despite recent discoveries of gas reserves in countries such as Mozambique, Senegal, Mauritania, Tanzania and South Africa, global bodies such as the IPCC indicate that a phase-out of all fossil fuels, including gas, is urgently needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Daouda Gueye of RAPEN, Senegal, said African leaders must “set their sights on implementing sustainable renewable energy solutions”, noting that as renewable energy is in abundance in the African continent, the communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
“We strongly oppose the move to lock our country into fossil fuel production and call for funding to be redirected to renewable energy that is not only sustainable but will provide more jobs in the long run. We also call on our government to abandon plans to transform the Bargny coal plant into a gas plant and chart a way forward to clean energy,” he said in reaction to recent interest by some developed nations to develop gas infrastructure in Africa.
For Michael Terungwa from Coal Free Nigeria, the increased interest in production of fossil fuels in Africa does not stand to benefit Africans, but meet the needs of the developed nations and multinationals.
“The needs of local communities should come first. What is best for the African nations is the support of developed nations to develop clean energy to allow us to move away from fossil fuels which are putting people, nature and the environment at risk,” he stated.
He called on African leaders not to allow their countries to be exploited, saying, “No new investment in new fossil fuel projects will address the pressing issues we are confronted with.”
Glen Tyler-Davies, South Africa team lead for 350Africa.org, said the IEA report might further perpetuate the narrative that continued exploration of fossil fuels like gas is inevitable in the path to development in Africa.
“This cannot be further from the truth. In the South African context, a recent report by Meridian economics reveals that large-scale gas generation projects in the country would push electricity prices up 40 percent. This would only lead South Africa down a path of expensive energy, stranded assets and continued fossil dependence; and delay the much needed just transition,” Tyler-Davies said.
“What our country needs is the political will to implement the Just Energy Transition Partnership to realize a just transition to socially-led renewable energy that leaves no worker behind.”