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Africa’s Position at COP27: Climate Change Agenda Should be Development Proof

posted onNovember 11, 2022

By Eng. R. Bravo Katungi

Africa is home to 1.2 billion people, 15.7% of the world’s population but contributes only 3.8% of global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. In contrast, cumulative GHG emissions of some of the developed world are USA 25%, European Union 22% and China 13%. On Average a person living in USA accounts for 10 times more GHG emissions than a person living in Africa. 

Despite contributing the least to global GHG emissions, Africa is facing the most adverse effects of climate change. According to IMF data, between 2010-2022, Africa was the most affected region by droughts and second most affected region by floods worldwide. In Africa the temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. The top 10 countries worldwide most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa and are home to 20.1% of Africa’s population. In a high emissions scenario, 20 African nations will have at least 100 days a year above 35 oC by 2050. Precipitation predictability will become more unpredictable leaving Africa vulnerable. 

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, the international community agreed to limit global warming to 1.5oC temperature increase by transitioning away from the use of fossil fuel to clean and renewable energy. In 2009, developed countries pledged to pay $USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to vulnerable African states which are severely being affected by climate related disasters, but this has not happened. During COP26, the African group of negotiators led by its chair Mr Tanguy Ghouma-Bekale said Africa needed to spend $USD 700 billion each year from 2025 to achieve its climate change targets plus adapt to adverse climate change effects already being faced, this has mostly fallen on deaf ears.

Question for COP27: “will the developed countries responsible for the highest increase of global warming pay reparations for the climate change related loss and damage that Africa has suffered?” 

600 million people (44.3%) in Africa still have no access to electricity and over 930 million people have no access to clean cooking fuel. It is estimated that over 490,000 premature deaths per year in Africa are caused by air pollution resulting from using charcoal and wood for cooking. Those that have access are hindered by high electricity tariffs, low incomes, and power cuts. 

In 2019 Japan whose population size is 10 times less than that of Africa consumed more electricity than the entire African continent. 

Another factor to consider is the tangential increase in energy demands of Africa due to population growth, it is estimated that the population of Africa will double by 2050 in comparison to 2020 levels. This indicates energy needs will also grow at a similar or even higher rate. In contrast, population growth in the developed countries will largely remain the stagnated in the comparable period. 

In many aspects, Africa is already ahead of the game when it comes to renewable energy. African countries more than tripled their investment in renewable energy between 2010 – 2019 from $USD 13.4 billion to $ USD 47.0 billion. Namibia generates 19% of its electricity from solar, the fourth highest globally, Kenya generates 46% of its electricity from geothermal, more than any other nation on earth and Morocco boasts of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant. There are 22 African nations already using hydro power as their main energy source for electricity. In May 2022, six African countries launched the Green Hydrogen Alliance aimed at spear-heading development of clean hydrogen on the continent. 

However, in the short-term, renewable energy alone cannot solve Africa’s energy poverty challenges. It is largely agreed that gas will play a vital role in the energy transition agenda as a substitute for coal in the short to midterm. Known gas reserves in Africa stood at 455.2 trillion cubic feet in 2020 with Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria producing 80% of it. Mozambique alone has over 100 trillion cubic feet of known reserves, 40% more than Canada, the world’s 5th largest producer of natural gas. However, most of the gas produced is exported to Europe, China, and India with little domestic utilisation. In countries like Mozambique, 75% of their gas is exported despite having 95% of its domestic population using biomass for cooking and 70% with no access to electricity. 

However, during COP26, the developed world including UK, USA, many European countries, and development agencies pledged to stop funding new fossil fuel projects. This one size fits all position has also been adopted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) with disregard of Africa’s unique challenges. The African nations must be unanimous in countering this policy and suggesting a more inclusive transition plan. 

Question for COP27: Considering the decision taken at COP26 to stop public funding of new fossil fuel projects, what are the realistic options to urgently achieve 100% electrification and clean cooking solutions for Africa?

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