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Influence of fossil fuels to our democracies

Health & Science

Last year in December several delegates from 197 countries came together under the umbrella of the  UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Paris. They were here for one main reason, to make sure the concentration levels of Green House Gases were stabilized in order to avoid an eminent depletion of the Ozone layer.

At the centre of the Paris 2015 climate talks were world leaders, symbols of governance from various parts of the world all present with the aim of significantly reducing the amount of carbon emissions in their respective countries. Kenya was duly represented by His Excellency,  The President Uhuru Kenyatta and several other delegates. They were here to commit to the cause.

Together they were in agreement that indeed there was a need to cut down the amount of carbon emissions if earth was to be habitable in years to come. This pledge was made regardless of whether the member states were developed nations or not in a bid to achieve a legal commitment from states to keep global warming below 2?C.

The burden however was on countries responsible for  97%of global emissions as they pledged their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for how they will address climate change. These pledges will be revisited in 2020 in the forefront to getting to the desired reduction targets in 2030.

This could however be seen as a last minute attempt to salvage an almost dire situation that has been propagated by the same institutions of governance. A last minute attempt that however if taken seriously may just be able to significantly reduce the harm that has been caused by the healthy link between fossil fuels and our democracies.

The concentration and control of energy flows in the world over have opened up democratic possibilities while in the same breath shutting them down completely. In Africa for example, countries like Nigeria have gained from their vast oil fields. It has given them the opportunity to increase their GDP’s through their exports.  The Niger Delta has however  seen a better part of conflicts between foreign oil corporations and minority groups who feel exploited.

Sudan has seen both sides of the coin literally, while they celebrated their oil mines and the potentiality of it being one of the richest economies in Africa, they have been in conflict over the boundary. Constant fights have in the past stemmed from the religious differences but in a way fueled by the desire to have control of the oil reserves which is also being eyed by foreign oil corporations.

Before any mineral is mined, it belongs to the state. If one needs to mine the said minerals, there are fees to be paid in terms of royalties. The state therefore determines the regulations, environment, contracts and infrastructure of the said mine, it also plays the role of a direct participant as the owner of the minerals therefore it has a say on the pricing.

 In that breath, mining corporations make states targets in order to have the advantage of slacked regulations, skewed pricing and low royalties as it is beneficial for them in the long run. They do this by funding campaigns and supporting government projects among other things. 

Some politicians also have shares in these corporations and in the end you find that it will be easier for them to pass laws that cater to their mineral interest than the interests of the state. In this case they would rather extract fossil fuels and gain lots of money from it with total disregard of the effects of that action 300 years to come.

The Panama papers have shown the link between oil corporations to money laundering, state corruption and evasion of taxes. Oil barons in Saudi Arabia, Angola, Qatar, Congo, and even Arias Cañete, now EU climate change and energy commissioner, were involved in this fraud. They used the tax haven to avoid paying taxes of their profits made by extracting and burning fossil fuels.

Unaoil scandal showed how oil multinational companies paid millions of dollars to win contracts in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa through the Unaoil consultancy firm based in Monaco. This only reaffirms the corruption patterns that fossil fuel companies have had during many years that affect our democracies and foster climate change.

Exxon, a leading oil corporation which has subsidiaries in several countries, Kenya included has been put in the spot in the past over its role in propagating colossal climate damage. Their scientific research from 1950’s show they were well aware of the impact CO2 from burning of fossil fuels had on the environment, despite this they denied the facts and went on to disagree with the climate targets set in Kyoto Japan.

While it is evident that there is an attempt being made by countries world over to reduce the rate at which the earth is sinking to destruction, it is safe to say that there is a battle between the forces that are keen to keep their cogwheel of destruction running on fuel through fuel production and consumption and the forces that seek to cut down the levels of carbon emissions.

In this collision one of the two must suffer, we cannot eat our cake and have it. If the COP 21 Paris Climate talks are anything to go by, countries must further pledge to keep their hands of fossil fuels. There have been climate action, notably led by young people all over the world seeking to stop the dependence on fossil fuel energy and draw more attention on clean renewable energy sources.

It can be done, we can do without fossils fuels. The sooner we realize that more wealth lies above the ground in terms of solar, wind and geothermal energy the closer we are getting to a cleaner earth.

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