Stop making Africa a fossil fuels dumping site

A coal power plant sits at the river's edge at dusk. [Getty Images]

The climate crisis debate did not start the other day, nor do its effects on humans.

The unending calls for behaviour change to spare Africans the suffering due to climate change is what now needs to take a moral dimension.

Despite periodic damning reports by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), actions by most polluting nations show a business as usual attitude.

In January 2021, hope was palpable when within 24 hours of being sworn in, US President Joe Biden returned the nation to the Paris Agreement to help curb global warming, to which the country is the second largest contributor.

But now reports indicate little plans to fulfill some of the promises, especially on the country’s investment in fossil fuel projects in Africa.

According to reports this week, up to two thirds of US’ investment in oil and gas projects between 2016 and 2021, to the tune of $9 billion, have been in Africa.

According to The Guardian, USA has only committed $682 million in clean energy projects like wind and solar over the same period.

And so, as the world pursues higher climate ambitions with one hand, it seems the other hand hammers these same ambitions, and soon we are back to where we have been for years, even though we can clearly see disaster looming.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guteress puts it this way: “We see emissions growing. We see fossil fuels fashionable again.

We absolutely need to reverse this trend. We are moving into a catastrophic situation”.

The profit driven actors in the fossil fuel industry know the recommendations of the IPCC reports for a fast but just transition to renewable energy. But they are in cities where dire effects of climate change, like Hurricane Ian that left thousands homeless last month, rarely cost lives, because of technology that enables rapid response, and so care less.

The story is different in Africa where a lot of the so-called cities also suffer urban sprawl.

Pakistan just had its share of flooding fatalities. It gets worse in rural areas where people also lose their sources of livelihood; livestock and crops.

They are left vulnerable to opportunistic infections due to poor nutrition that leads to lesser immunity.

Poverty, hunger, water stresses, energy poverty, conflict over meagre resources and climate induced migration are always lurking.

There has not been a better time to help Africa leap from poverty. The migration clearly requires massive electricity. But not from sources that will destroy us in the long run. Some of these places where exploration of fossil fuels is done, as is the case in the Zimbabwean National Park where an Australian company is drilling oil, or along the East African Crude Oil Pipeline path, are our heritage, things we cannot buy.

The lives of the people in rural areas are deeply rooted in the natural resources around them. They drink from rivers, rely on forests for medicines and fruits, peat and more.

When it doesn’t rain at the usual time as a result of the climate crisis, and they lose crops or livestock to drought or flooding, then the climate crisis reality hits differently. Many resort to begging their creator to forgive their sins and bring favourable weather.

When rich nations invest in fossil fuels in Africa and phase out the same on their land, Africans appear lesser beings.

The global north needs to help Africa adapt and develop clean. All humans are equal before God.

The writer is the interim communications manager at GreenFaith

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