The UN Climate Change Conference (COP 20) kicked off with an all-fired-up plenary. UNFCCC’s boss Christina Figures captured the mood: “Here in Lima, to aspire to great heights ourselves, we must draw several critical lines of action”.

The most striking part of the plenary was the presentation of the results outlined in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. That science points to human activities as the largest cause of increased greenhouse gases emissions (GHG) is not disputable. And according to the Fifth Assessment Report presented by IPCC Chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the largest percentage of this GHG so far (35 per cent) have emanated from the energy sector. This is a worrying trend in the sense that there is  little investment in energy options to reverse this trajectory. The ever-growing population and expanding economic environments immensely rely on this commodity yet in most cases, it is not clean and sustainable enough.

Dealing with the sorry state of the energy sector in most African countries is crucial. A large proportion of the population lacks access to energy, but those who do, do not fully enjoy that privilege. The high cost of energy coupled with insufficient and irregular supply continues to erode smiles on the faces of the very ‘privileged’. Kenya, for instance, heavily relies on hydroelectric power, which has not been sustainably generated. With the growing population and energy demands, it is only prudent that rapid measures be employed in curbing the energy menace.

A promising option is migration to renewable energy resources. These have potential to alleviate many of the problems that face Africans today, especially if sustainable. South Africa has embraced renewable energy on a larger proportion compared to other African countries. A number of solar power projects now supply power especially to the rural places.

There is need to replicate this in the rest of Africa. The major impediment is financial and infrastructural constraints. The COP 20 provides a forum to discuss how such mechanisms can be dealt with in the context of adaptation, finance and technology transfer. The ongoing negotiations by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) need to focus on  how African states can be assisted in shifting to cleaner energy options.

Dr Pachauri reinforces that “Science is at your doorstep, what we need to do is to come up with equitable, ethical and implementable set of actions by which we can move along a smooth path of development that would ensure a stable climate in the future”.

In Dr Pachauri’s words, ‘to stabilise the concentrations, we need to move away from business as usual’.