African countries are joining the world in decarbonization, but is it fair?

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By Seth Onyango – Bird Newsroom.

All have stepped up their investments in renewable energy infrastructure to decarbonize their industries and run their economies on clean fuels.

Some small states have also defined ambitious goals for energy transition from fossils, like Rwanda’s goal of producing 60% renewable energy by 2030. Data shows that there is a huge incentive for decarbonization.

In June of last year, finance giant Goldman Sachs forecast spending on renewable energy projects in 2021 outperform upstream oil and gas for the first time in history. He expects the clean energy sector to reach $ 16 billion in investment volume by 2030, eclipsing fossil fuels.

This week at UNGA, US President Joe Biden announced America would quadruple its international climate finance to $ 11.4 billion by 2024 to help developing countries counter the worst impacts of global warming.

“This will make the United States a leader in public climate finance,” he said. Ergo, African countries with strong clean energy infrastructure could swallow billions from this part and make the continent one of the largest hubs for renewable energies.

The AfDB argues that this is “no brainer”, as the continent has the potential to become the world leader in scaling up and producing renewable energy.

Its numbers show the continent has almost unlimited solar potential (at least 10 TW), abundant sources of hydraulic (350 GW), wind (110 GW) and geothermal (15 GW) energy.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that clean energy capacity in Africa could reach 310 GW by 2030, placing it at the forefront of renewable energy production on a global scale.

But opinions are divided on whether Africa can afford to ditch its fossil fuels. New oil and gas discoveries signal possible fortunes – but At what price ?

The AfDB notes that a “renewable energy revolution could unlock Africa’s social and economic development. However, a change in political economy is needed to move away from the current concern of large electrical projects, centralized electricity production and a strong dependence on coal.

Africa’s fossil fuel suppliers are also gearing up for a low-carbon future as the continent pivots towards a cleaner energy economy.

But they hope it will not come at the expense of the abundance of coal, oil and gas which is buried under the surface of the continent.

OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo and his African Organization of Petroleum Producers (APPO) counterpart Omar Farouk Ibrahim insist that only a two-lane road will propel Africa’s energy agenda – where fossils and renewable energies are ingredients of the continent’s energy cocktail.

At a meeting in Brazzaville, Congo, last month, the two captains of industry pleaded for an adaptive and market-driven approach to the energy transition, where hydrocarbons are not excluded or eradicated.

“We will not allow billions of barrels of oil to be wasted and we will not be dragged into projects we don’t need – ones that won’t tackle fuel poverty. We have to sit down and have an honest conversation about the energy transition ”, Ibrahim said, feelings which were echoed by Barkindo.

“Within OPEC, we also categorically reject the narrative that the energy transition is shifting from hydrocarbons to renewable energies, because this narrative completely distorts science,” Barkindo reiterated.

“We believe this all energy sources are needed today and in the future to meet the challenges of climate change and future energy demand. According to our World Oil Outlook at OPEC, energy demand will increase by at least 25% by 2045. Therefore, we must promote all energy resources in an efficient and sustainable manner. Our industry is therefore part of the solution to climate change.

Africa only contributed 4% of greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2017, while it represents 17% of the world’s population, making it the least polluter.

It is on this basis that the players in the continent’s oil industry are pushing back against a blind and hasty transition of fossils.

OPEC and APPO argue that the southern hemisphere and in particular Africa should have leeway to fuel their economies with hydrocarbons, just as the West has.

Oil companies argue that industrialized countries have been able to defeat other rich and powerful by tapping into fossil fuels, so Africa should do the same.

International climate policy expert Mohamed Adow noted that the UK has funded and benefited for decades from the expansion of fossils in Africa.

“As he reaped the benefits of decarbonizing his own energy system, he chained poorer nations with filthy fossil fuel infrastructure, from which the world must now move away,” he said in a statement. editorial in The independent.

He further argues that if the rich polluters want Africa to jump on the dirty development path and harness clean energy, then it has to pay for it. Corn the bill is huge.

In July this year, South Africa’s national electricity company, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, presented a $ 10 billion plan to banks and multilateral agencies to help it switch to renewable energies.

Eskom emits nearly 213 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, making it one of the largest emitters of fossil fuels in Africa. With too high a cost and no one willing to pay, OPEC and APPO argue that Africa’s energy transition should be gradual.

But the the oil and gas industry faces growing opposition from a public very concerned about the environmental impact of fossil fuels and increasingly skeptical investors.

With $ 16 billion in investments expected over the next decade, the case for decarbonizing the continent is stronger. African countries are already positioning themselves as beneficiaries of part of this enormous energy expenditure.

Gradually, African countries are becoming pioneers in the global transition to clean energies, with South Africa and Morocco innovating technologically with hydrogen, while many countries on the continent are making or authorizing significant investments in the solar photovoltaic and wind generation.

Notably, Ethiopia recently announced an investment of $ 40 billion in power generation, the bulk of which will be devoted to green energy.

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