Kiraitu: To tame climate change in Africa end poverty not fossil fuels

National Oil Corporation Kenya chairman Kiraitu Murungi in a meeting with Tullow Oil group CEO Rahul Dihr at the corporation's office on July 19, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK) Chairman Kiraitu Murungi has said Africa is not under serious threat from fossil fuels given that it was not yet industrialized.

Kiraitu noted that fossil fuels have become a dirty word in the vocabulary of climate activists and it has become politically incorrect to talk about oil and gas because they are associated with greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

“Africa’s contribution to global greenhouse gases emissions is negligible– just 3 per cent of the global total, but we are witnessing a significant shift of investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy projects. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find investors for fossil fuel projects because of climate conditionalities being imposed by Western donors and lenders,” he said.

Kiraitu said scientists have found that forests are carbon sinks which absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide which is a major greenhouse gas and given that Africa was still home to some thick forests which can absorb the emissions and serve as a set-off for the carbon released into the atmosphere by fossil fuels

Endemic poverty

Speaking during the Australia Africa Clean Energy Conference in Nairobi, yesterday, he argued that the existential threat to climate change in Africa is not fossil fuels but endemic poverty.

“It is estimated that 70 per cent of our people in the rural areas cannot afford modern energy services, including renewable energy. The only energy option available to them is traditional energy. They have to use firewood, charcoal, and agricultural residue for their cooking and lighting needs,” he said.

Kiraitu predicted the world shall not achieve a zero-carbon future by 2025 and therefore oil and gas will continue to be a significant source of energy in the next two decades.

He said the outlook of clean energy in Africa is bright.

“We are aware of the existential threat of climate change and the need to transition to clean energy. The question we are posing is: Given our current socioeconomic realities, can we have a radical break with fossil fuels? We shall need both clean energy and fossil fuels for the foreseeable future,” he said.

He noted climate change was also threatened by deforestation and desertification caused by poor farming practices and commercial activities such as logging and charcoal burning.