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Lobbies want Africa to slow down on coal, oil investments

By Macharia Kamau | February 11th 2020
By Macharia Kamau | February 11th 2020

A general view shows an oil rig used in drilling at the Ngamia-1 well on Block 10BB, in the Lokichar basin, which is part of the East African Rift System in Turkana County, on April 5, 2012. [Reuters]

Civil society organisations are pushing African governments to adopt strategies that will see the region increasingly adopt clean energy while phasing out fossil fuels.

A statement by 25 non-governmental agencies from around the world called on African governments to slow down the proliferation of coal, oil and gas on the continent, saying this is already the trend in other countries, including the developed world.

Such a request is, however, unlikely to find an eager audience among many African countries, with a number of economies heavily dependent on coal, oil and gas to fire their economies as well as earn them foreign exchange.

Kenya and Uganda are in early stages of developing their oil industries.

The NGOs issued the statement when African leaders held the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, which took place Sunday and Monday at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“All coal must end immediately, and all other fossil fuels phased out by 2050 - with rich countries ditching them fastest to limit global warming,” said Alvin Munyasia from Oxfam International.

“Any natural gas or other fossil fuels must require strong environmental and social due diligence measures, and only if there are clear benefits for poor people, such as funding for essential services or clean energy access provision.”

He said such fossil fuels should only be in the short-term if there are no viable clean alternatives, and must be part of eventual phase-outs to low carbon energy.

Renewable energy

“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,” said Mr Munyasia.

Omar Elmawi, coordinator for the Decoalonize Campaign - the organisation that has been fighting the planned coal power plant in Lamu County - noted that there is abundance of renewable energy sources in Kenya and the region, which are adequate to fire industries without having to rely on fossil fuels.

“The abundance of renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal make it possible for Africa to leapfrog dirty fossil fuels like coal that countries in the West had to rely on for their development,” he said.

Coal and other fossil fuels have lost the war to renewable energy on both environmental and economic grounds. It’s the reason developed countries, including China, are now shutting their coal plants in favour of clean energy.”

Africa, Mr Elmawi said, should tap into its vast renewable energy resources that can power the continent without harming its people or the environment.

Speaking at the AU meeting on Sunday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Africa was the least responsible for accelerated global warming, but “among the first and worst to suffer.”

“Last year was devastating. Along with the destruction of cyclones Idai and Kenneth, there are numerous under-reported climate-linked crises from the Sahel to Zambia, from Kenya to Madagascar,” he said.

East Africa is currently grappling with a locust infestation - which the UN notes is also climate related - that is threatening to cause misery across the region.

Mr Guterres said addressing climate-related security risks in the Horn of Africa, Central Africa and the Sahel must be a priority.

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