As the world endeavors to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions it’s very critical for world economies to shift their consumption of energy from fossils fuels in order to meet the globally agreed climate goals laid down in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Africa’s Response to Climate Change

Therefore, more than 25 organizations, networks and community resistance groups from Africa and around the world, in a communiqué signed by the group called on African governments to prevent the proliferation of coal, oil and gas in Africa and to ensure efforts to address fossil fuels match those which have helped reduce the danger from nuclear weapons.

In a recently concluded Africa Energy Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change, Energy, and Energy Finance in Addis Ababa-Ethiopia attended by representatives from different NGOs which includes MELCA-Ethiopia, Oil Change Africa, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, the deCOA Lonize Campaign and Power Shift Africa demands the urgent need of African governments to upscale their efforts and strengthen their response to climate change.

“The group criticized the deliberate proliferation of coal, oil, and gas in Africa, contrary to scientific evidence and highlighted the contradiction between planned fossil fuel expansion and globally agreed climate targets,” read the press statement.

IPCC: Sub-Saharan Africa is Particularly Vulnerable to Negative Effects of Climate Change

Although Sub Sahara Africa emits 2 to  3 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industrial sources, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the continent is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Indeed, the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods have already worsened in many parts of Africa and its bad effects will increase in future.

The activists noted that the rapidly rising threats of fossils fuels as the major driver of climate change crisis in Africa also deserved the same efforts that match the magnitude and the speed at which weapons of mass destruction are confronted.

The group specifically called on African leaders to: “put an end to fossil fuel development; to manage the decline of existing production of oil, gas, and coal; and to rapidly initiate a transition to clean and safe renewable sources of energy that fully supports access to energy for those who currently lack it.”

They also asked them to “publicly condemn and reject the double standards advanced by fossil fuel companies and their allied interests, who result in the discriminatory treatment of Africa and her peoples.”

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Need to Go Down By At Least 25 Percent by 2030

According to 2019 emission gap report indicated that by 2030, emissions would need to be 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2˚C and 1.5°C respectively. Alvin Munyasia, from Oxfam International says that all coal must end immediately, and all other fossil fuels phased out by 2050 – with rich countries ditching them fastest to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees.

“No new coal power plants should be built anywhere, and the last existing plant needs to be closed in wealthy countries at the very latest by 2030 and in all countries by 2040,” he insisted.

Additionally, the advocacy group further called on their African leaders to fast-track and rapidly initiate a transition to clean and safe renewable sources of energy that fully supports access to energy for those who currently lack it.” They also ask them to “publicly condemn and reject the double standards advanced by fossil fuel companies and their allied interests, who result in the discriminatory treatment of Africa and her peoples.”

Access to alternative sources of clean energy is vital for African countries towards the realization of Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development .Mohamed Adow, Director of climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa highlighted the fossil fuel industry as an existential threat to Africa and the world – and to have chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to below 1.5C degrees, international cooperation is required to prevent the proliferation of coal, oil and gas, at the scale and speed required to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

“African countries investing in fossil fuels risk creating stranded assets, and an un-managed and disorderly transition from fossil fuels. We can either intentionally develop new ways to meet our energy needs without increasing our emissions or altogether lose the window of opportunity to ensure a safe climate and a sustainable future.”

Consistent Climate Change Policies are Sorely Needed

The 2019 UN environment emission gap report further indicates that to attain a significant global energy sector transition requires consistent climate change policies that concord well with the Paris agreement goal. This will require huge investments to between US$1.6 trillion and US$3.8 trillion per year globally on average over the 2020–2050 to improve global energy systems.

In this regards, Omar Elmawi, Coordinator for the deCOALonize Campaign, mentioned that Sub- Sahara Africa present huge opportunities for renewable energy. “The abundance of renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal makes it possible for Africa to leapfrog dirty fossil fuels like coal that countries in the west had to rely on for their development.” Omar said.

But some African countries have already made substantial progress in tapping into vast renewable energy to power their economies. South Africa has developed the largest wind energy while Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Kenya are following suit with both wind and solar energy generation thus increasing competition to fossil fuels.

As the world embraces the energy transition away from fossil fuels to low-carbon solutions, there is potential to disrupt existing power dynamics .Nthabiseng Matsoha, Earthlife Africa’s Researcher and Energy Policy Officer says that it’s high time the continent’s renewable energy potential benefited ordinary people. This is especially important as we move towards a ‘just transition’ to a decarbonized world. Community ownership models should be explored, to not only benefit but to empower.