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COP27: The Africa proposal (2)

Still, there is evidence of increasing global convergence on a “fair, just and equitable” energy transition for Africa, at the 6th EU-AU summit in Brussels on 17-18 February 2022 no less, with the EU partnership with South Africa, which was initially launched at COP26, increasingly cited as a model.

To reduce and ultimately eliminate coal from its energy mix, South Africa secured a 5-year $8.5 billion climate financing deal with the European Union, France, Germany, UK, and the US in early November 2022, albeit it underwhelms on grants, as 96 percent of the entire package are loans and guarantees, with only 4 percent as grants.

On their part, African countries will have to dedicate much more of their fiscal budgets to climate finance actions than the 3-9 percent that they currently provide for if they are to meet their own commitments.

But their efforts alone are unlikely to move the needle in the absence of significant international financing. That has not been forthcoming as expected. Annual climate financing flows of about $30 billion into Africa is just about a tenth of the $277 billion of climate financing that Africa requires.

Even so, it is unfair to ask African countries to do more when rich nations have themselves reverted to coal to avoid facing cold winters this year. Between January-August 2022, European coal imports increased by 35 percent year on year, as the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war hit hard on the continent’s energy supply.

Of the 770 million people in the world without access to electricity, more than 70 percent live in Africa. They cannot simply afford to blindly join the global bandwagon of climate action. Yes, the imperative of climate action is an exigent one. But it is a luxury that Africa can ill afford in its current form.

Unsurprisingly, African governments are beginning to take ownership of the continent’s energy agenda. In fact, African and other poor countries must not only own their energy agendas, they must also insist on important seats at the global table where the world’s energy future is decided.

Evidence that African leaders now see the need to be masters of their countries’ energy destinies came soon enough in early October 2022, when Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rejected calls by the United States to halt a bidding round for crude oil exploration blocks in the ecologically sensitive Congo Basin – one of the largest carbon sinks in the world.

Africa’s insistence that natural gas qualify as a transition fuel is justified. Although a fossil fuel, it emits far less CO2 into the atmosphere than oil.

A significant volume of natural gas that comes along with crude oil production is simply flared in Africa. There is therefore, a case to be made for its conversion into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which would help the energy-starved continent meet its requirements in the period of transition to greener energy. This argument was not well received in the West until they found themselves cut off from Russian gas.

Now many of the same countries that used to lecture Africa on the need to make a quicker transition to green energy have found themselves scurrying to the continent for gas. The International Energy Agency (IEA), however, projects that fossil fuel demand will peak by 2030 in its latest forecasts in October 2022, owing in great part to the Russia-Ukraine war, as the increasingly protracted conflict is accelerating measures by rich countries towards a quicker transition to renewables.

That said, this position by African governments of natural gas as a transition fuel under the auspices of the AU is at odds with those of the continent’s negotiators at COP27, who argue that it is distracting. Besides, there is some dissension in the ranks of African leaders themselves.

Read also: COP27: This is time for partnership – OCEL

William Ruto, Kenya’s newly elected president since September 2022, wants Africa to avoid the errors of rich countries by instead going all-in with renewables, referencing how Kenya already sources more than 90 percent of its energy requirements from green sources. Even so, African governments have been reiterating their position on the need for more climate finance and gas as a transition fuel ever since.

Still, some simpler, cheap, and innovative but potentially effective climate action measures like clean cookstoves deserve attention. The use of firewood and kerosene for cooking is said to be responsible for the killing of over half a billion people – mostly women – in the developing world. Dirty cooking emits as much carbon into the atmosphere as the global aviation industry.

Thus, African countries should bear in mind some of the many other innovative and potentially effective climate action measures which are abundantly within their power to implement on their own. Besides, there is already an increasingly sizeable global philanthropic effort to ease the African climate action predicament.

At the 2022 Sustainable Energy for All Forum held in Kigali, Rwanda, in May 2022, for instance, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced $242 million to support clean energy development in ten developing countries that included four African ones, which will be invested in partnership with Sustainable Energy for All, a United Nations programme, the International Solar Alliance, and others.

An edited version was first published by the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies at Nanyang Business School, Singapore. References, figures and tables are in the

original article. See link viz. https://www.ntu.edu.sg/cas/newsevents/news/details/three-proposals-that-should-be-adopted-at-cop27

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