In a break from the norm, something good happened this week. African leaders committed to scaling up clean, affordable energy in the next six years to deliver reliable, affordable, pollution-free energy to millions of people.
Good news like this is a much-needed respite from the news of floods, droughts, heat waves and storms from around the world.
We all know why these disasters are happening. The facts have been clear for years.
For the last decade, I’ve been one of the scientists contributing to the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, assessing the latest science on climate change.
Rising temperatures and increasingly extreme weather are the result of climate change caused by humans, and the unsustainable use of fossil fuels.
But Africans don’t need to look at scientific papers to see the impact of the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. It’s happening in front of our eyes. All of us notice days getting hotter and storms getting stronger. The drought in the Horn of Africa has resulted in acute food insecurity for more than four million people. This weather increases the demand for already scarce electricity for air conditioning and refrigeration.
In South Africa, we deal with hours of rolling blackouts - load shedding - and deadly air pollution because of our continued reliance on ageing coal-fired power stations. The impact is devastating: the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and undermining the health of the poorest and most vulnerable.
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Globally, millions of us are harmed by fossil fuels. It’s why I’ve negotiated on behalf of South Africa at UN climate summits to help us adapt to the impacts of climate change, and it’s why I’ve worked for almost two decades to help make Durban more resilient to its impact. I know that the surest form of adaptation is stopping the use of fossil fuels.
African leaders reached an agreement on the Nairobi Declaration at the recent inaugural African Climate Summit. They set a trajectory to increase Africa’s renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade.
That sets a precedent and may well help set the world on the path to secure, clean energy.
Those leaders know renewables are already working for Africa. In Kenya, renewable energy sources now generate over 80 per cent of its electricity. Wind and solar are the cheapest way to produce electricity in four out of five countries. Solar energy is helping women in business. Clean energy can give us reliable power and help end load shedding.
The writer is the Head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in Durban