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Activists reject AU’s move to ditch renewables for fossil gas, nuclear projects

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam and Victor Gbonegun
04 August 2022   |   4:05 am
Campaigners have warned that Africa is in danger of being locked into fossil fuels, in decades to come, as leaders consider a new position that will prioritise fossil gas and nuclear projects over cleaner, cheaper, renewables.

Fossil fuels

As African delegates chart path for creating clean cities
Campaigners have warned that Africa is in danger of being locked into fossil fuels, in decades to come, as leaders consider a new position that will prioritise fossil gas and nuclear projects over cleaner, cheaper, renewables.

A technical committee of the African Union (made up of energy, not climate ministers) had recently proposed an ‘African Common Position on Energy Access and Transition.’

This position centres on fossil gas and nuclear energy, at the expense of renewables, and is proposed for adoption by African Heads of State and launch at COP27.

This comes on the back of the European Union’s recent vote in favour of a new rule that will consider fossil gas and nuclear projects “green,” making them eligible for low-cost loans and subsidies.

Together, these would clear the way for the COP27 climate talks in Egypt to announce a massive effort to scale up fossil gas production in Africa, distracting from the clear need for renewables, wedging the continent into fossil fuels, while also shifting dangerous nuclear technologies that Europeans don’t want to African soil.

Meanwhile, this came as about 566 participants drawn from 48 countries across the globe, including Nigeria, urged the need for cleaner cities through efficient management of wastes and shift towards a circular economy on the African continent.

They made the recommendation under the aegis of African Clean Cities Programme (ACCP) at a virtual meeting held, yesterday, to exchange knowledge, experiences and create partnerships with people who share the same challenges in solid waste management in Africa.

CAMPAIGNERS are concerned that the position will fail to achieve its own objectives of ensuring energy access and transition. They have also expressed concerns that it could have drastic consequences for Africa’s future prosperity, locking in massive stranded asset risk, damaging development prospects, while prioritising exports to Europe and the Global North.

It could also damage the credibility of COP27 and the viability of global climate goals, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

Their concerns are set out in an African Energy Access and Transition Memorandum.

The Director, Power Shift Africa, Mohamed Adow, said: “Africa is blessed with an abundance of wind, solar and other clean renewable energies. African leaders should be maximising this potential and harnessing the abundant wind and sun, which will help boost energy access and tackle climate change. What Africa does not need is to be shackled with expensive fossil fuel infrastructure, which will be obsolete in a few years as the climate crisis worsens.

“It would be a shameful betrayal of African people, already on the frontline of the climate crisis, if African leaders use this November’s COP27 climate summit on African soil to lock Africa into a fossil fuel-based future. Africa does not need the dirty energy of the past; it needs forward-looking leadership that can take advantage of the clean energy of the present and future.”

Africa Regional Campaigner at 350.org, Charity Migwi, said: “As a concerned African citizen, it is totally unacceptable for African leaders to prioritise gas, while millions hardest hit by the unfolding climate crisis are struggling to adapt to the devastating realities of climate change. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned in 2020 that there is no room for new fossil fuels.

“The development of gas would not only lock African nations into fossil fuel production but would also undermine any plans to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to keep global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius, to avert even more catastrophic climate impacts. African leaders must, instead, support sustainable sources of renewable energy for communities in developing countries for the good of humanity and the planet.”

Dr. Sixbert Mwanga, Coordinator of Climate Action Network Africa, said:
“The African continent is endowed with so many and high quality renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, which could benefit its people. At COP27, we call for the African Union and African leaders to announce the utilisation of these sources for the benefit of our people and leave aside fossil fuel development for export.”

Africa Coal Network Coordinator, Lorraine Chiponda, said: “The 2022
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly warns that the world needs drastic cuts in carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate impacts. The globe already has seen temperature rise. We will exceed 1.5ºC and suffer an increase in intensity and frequency in climate disasters.

“The prospect that African leaders are presenting and pushing for gas developments and investment is overwhelming and reckless, given the climate impacts that threaten the lives of millions of people in Africa, having seen worsening droughts and hunger, recurring floods and cyclones.”

Pan Africa Senior Advocacy Advisor, Christian Aid, Joab Okanda, said: “Africa has the potential to be a clean energy superpower if we can harness the wind and solar resources our continent is blessed with. However a clean energy revolution will do nothing for those who profit from fossil fuels. And so, there is pressure for African leaders to instead use valuable investment dollars on gas.

“The African Union would be crazy to shackle their countries to fossil fuel infrastructure just as the era of polluting fossil fuels is coming to an end. The reality of climate change means the world is moving away from dirty energy, like gas, and instead maximising clean alternatives, which are already cheaper.”

ABOUT 566 participants drawn from 48 countries across the globe, including Nigeria, have urged the need for cleaner cities through efficient management of wastes and shifting towards a circular economy on the African continent.

They made the recommendation under the aegis of African Clean Cities Programme (ACCP) at a virtual meeting held, yesterday, to exchange knowledge, experiences and create partnerships with people who share the same challenges in solid waste management in Africa.

The experts shared best practices of waste data monitoring and action planning using Waste Wise Cities Tool and controlled landfill site management using the Fukuoka Method, among others.

The ACCP Assemblies are organised every three years in conjunction with Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

The ACCP members captured the outcomes of activities laid out in the Yokohama Action Guidance adopted in the Second Assembly in 2019 and agreed on ACCP activities in the coming three years.

Participants actively discussed the challenges and experience for improved solid waste management and showcased innovative circular economy solutions provided by private companies in Africa.

Speaking at the forum, the Founder, Garbage In Value Out (GIVO) Nigeria, Victor Boyle-Komolafe, said: “Newly available data on solid waste management in the supply chain can open new financing such as carbon finance and plastic fund. We can’t underestimate the power of data.”

Chief Executive Officer, Taka Taka Solutions, Kenya, Daniel Paffenholz, observed that African governments lack the financial capacity to adopt the Western model in waste collection, adding that most waste is collected by the private sector in Africa.

He said: “The average gate fee to dump one ton of waste in the United States is $50 while the average gate fee for the same amount of waste in Africa is one dollar.”

Prime Minister of Tunisia, Najla Bouden, who called for more cities to join the forum, explained that the meeting reflects the importance of shared responsibility in the effort to fight against environmental degradation.