As the merger of climate change and COVID panic materializes in front of our eyes, “global leaders” have found plenty developing world voices to join the crusade to “save the planet” from carbon (dioxide) “pollution.” But like their Chinese and Indian counterparts, many Africans, from heads of state to captains of industry and beyond, intend to expand, not shrink, reliance on fossil fuels to build their economies.
According to Oxford University researcher Galina Alova, “Africa’s electricity demand is set to increase significantly as the continent strives to industrialise and improve the well-being of its people,” but those who hope for rapid decarbonization in Africa will likely be disappointed.
Alova’s research found that Africa is likely to double its electricity generation by 2030, with fossil fuels providing two-thirds of the total, hydroelectric another 18 percent, and non-hydro renewables providing less than 10 percent.
Such an energy mix flies in the face of the firm commitment from the fledgling Biden Administration to demand an end to all international financing of fossil fuel based energy projects. Biden climate envoy John Kerry won a strong endorsement from 450 organizations worldwide after telling World Economic Forum members of the “plan for ending international finance of fossil fuel projects with public money.”
The Biden plan, which comports with the Paris climate agreement, echos the call by European Union foreign ministers for an end to financing fossil fuel projects abroad (which means in Africa). Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that “development finance is a powerful tool for addressing the climate crisis” that the U.S. will use to “help drive investment toward climate solutions.” [Translation: “We intend to ram decarbonization down their throats!”]
Many Africans feel the need to placate their self-appointed betters and accept the climate change tenets.
World Bank veteran Ede Ijjasz and Africa Growth Initiative Director Aloysius Ordu claim that Africans must take advantage of the COVID pandemic to initiate a “great reset” of Africa’s economies according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Paris agreement. The world, they claim, cannot afford to give Africa a pass on decarbonization (though China and India get a pass).
Others prefer a more temperate approach.
In late March, investment professional Tariye Gbadegesin challenged President Biden to prioritize African nations as part of his global climate initiative. While admitting that Africa’s urban centers are swelling, “threatening more emissions,” she asserted that striking a balance between this ongoing development and its climate impact must be a global priority. For example, Nigeria could build a hybrid grid using plentiful natural gas and solar energy. But, Gbadegesin implied, such a hybrid grid would not meet the Biden-EU financing guidelines.
In early April, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Global Center for Adaptation, and the Africa Adaptation Initiative held a virtual Leaders Dialogue in response to the State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report. Over 30 heads of state and other global leaders committed to prioritize actions that will help African countries both adapt to the presumed impacts of “climate change” and overcome widespread energy poverty. African Union chair Felix Tshisekedi listed “nature-based solutions, energy transition, an enhanced transparency framework, technology transfer, and climate finance” as critical areas for adaptation.
During the meeting, AfDB president Dr. Akinwumi Adesina noted the group intends to mobilize $25 billion in financing for the success of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program. “It is time,” he affirmed, “for developed countries to meet their promise of providing $100 billion annually for climate finance. And a greater share of this should go to climate adaptation.”
This African response to the Biden-EU decarbonization initiative – relying on adaptation and balance, not prohibition and eternal poverty, to achieve sustainability — reflects on the 1987 Brundtland Commission report, “Our Common Future.” In the report, the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development” as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Commission Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland acknowledged that, “A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophe.” In her view, “Meeting essential needs requires not only a new era of economic growth for nations in which the majority are poor, but an assurance that those poor get their fair share of the resources required to sustain that growth.”
Sadly, U.S. and EU (and the UN) climate “monarchs” have long ignored Brundtland’s promises. The UN’s 20-year assessment of the document did not even mention “poverty” or “Africa.” CFACT reported that year that sub-Saharan Africa was “in very short supply of energy and power, especially electricity, and overland trade [was] greatly hindered by an almost total lack of infrastructure.” Worse. curable diseases ran rampant as people relied on toxic dung and wood for heating and cooking.
At the 2011 UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, nuclear physicist (and CFACT advisor) Kelvin Kemm reported that the African representatives were not happy. “Their general feeling,” he recounted, “was that the First World is trying to push Africa around, bully African countries into accepting its opinions, and, even worse, adopting its supposed ‘solutions’.”
That feeling remains. Responding to the Biden-EU renewables-only energy financing plan, W. Gyude Moore, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Liberian minister of public works, mused that, “There’s this idea that because Africa is lacking in legacy infrastructure, it’s a good canvas to paint the energy future. But no African country has volunteered itself for that.”
With nearly 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, Moore added, “it seems immoral to restrict options for energy sources” for the world’s poorest continent. Later, Moore, with Vijaya Ramachandran of The Breakthrough Institute, wrote that a ban on oil and gas projects in Africa would stifle economic growth and thus make poor populations even more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Moore and Ramachandran explained that the top priority in most African countries is economic growth, first in agriculture, then in industry and services. For most Africans, worries of an increased carbon footprint generated from economic growth are a weak second to worries that growth may not happen at all. In their view, people in poverty don’t just need to power a single lightbulb at home; they need abundant, affordable energy at work too.
Overall, Moore and Ramachandran noted, Africa’s needs are too great to be met solely with current green energy technologies. Its finances too stretched to be able to afford the cost of carbon-neutral energy. Keeping Africa poor to fight climate change will do nothing to help the people most affected by it. But President Biden, his EU allies, and the “green 450” disagree.
This arrogance makes it quite clear that “Our Common Future” is still in the future, if at all.
The difference is that, today, Africans are no longer waiting for the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or even the African Development Bank to finally invest in sorely needed African infrastructure.
By hook or by crook, Africans are committed to using available resources to do the job.