Representatives of Africa have warned they need time and money to wean themselves off fossil fuels in order to achieve net zero without jeopardising its future ahead of COP27.
Ghana, South Africa and the African Union have insisted the continent stands by net zero, but warned they are still heavily dependent on coal, oil and gas to power its development.
“Africa is fully convinced and committed to a net zero and supportive of the climate agenda, however, where we may differ is on the timeframe,” said African Union (AU) energy commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid. “Africa’s population of 1.3 billion is set to double by 2050, and AU nations aim to make affordable and reliable energy available to everyone by 2063.”
Funding for Africa’s green transition is likely to be a hot topic at the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6-18. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, rich nations pledged $100 billion a year to help developing countries limit climate change.
But they have so far failed to meet the promise—and prospects have been further clouded this year by the resounding economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine.
‘Not in our interest’
Ghana’s deputy energy minister Mohammed Amin Adam argued international green energy investment in Africa was “still appalling”, accounting only for about two % of the global total.
“African countries need to secure financing for oil and gas projects, as fossil fuel revenue is needed to finance climate adaptation measures,” he continued. “If we give up this, how do we even finance our ability to adapt to the climate effects? We cannot. Unless we have a substitute for our revenue.”
Africa is one of the most impacted continents of climate change, with rising temperatures worsening droughts and floods, despite only being responsible for around three % of global CO2 emissions.
South African Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe warned ditching coal too quickly would damage the economy and cost thousands of jobs. South Africa is currently the continent’s main coal producer and consumer—as well as one of the world’s top 12 carbon emitters.
Last year, South Africa secured $8.5 billion loans and grants from a group of rich nations to finance the transition to greener alternatives. The deal is now hanging in the balance, amid negotiations with donor countries around how the money should be spent.
Mantashe commented: “When developed economies come to us and say ‘part of the $8.5 billion is going to be spent on accelerating the exit of coal’, I feel that is not in our interest.”
At pre-COP27 talks in Kinshasa this week, the Democratic Republic of Congo pushed back against demands to abandon oil and gas blocks that it has put up for auction in environmentally sensitive areas.
Bids were launched in July for 30 blocks in the Congo Basin, sparking fears that drilling could release carbon dioxide trapped for millennia in the peaty forest floor.
In response to this, Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba, opening the talks on Monday, was asked if the government should let children die rather than harvest from its fossil resources. “As much as we need oxygen, we also need bread,” she said.
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