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Time for Africa to stop dancing to the destructive tune of Big Oil

By Mohamed Adow | May 24th 2021
Big Oil’s promises are but snake oil. [Courtesy]

One of the biggest lies is that the only way for Africans to develop is to burn huge amounts of fossil fuel. But this dirty energy accounts for more than 80 per cent of planet-heating greenhouse gases.

We have, and can take a different path to prosperity, thanks to our abundance of wind and solar potential. If we do not, the UN warns, we will be on track to produce far more oil than can fit within the Paris Climate goals. Big Oil’s promises are but snake oil.  The end result will be stranded assets and climate destruction; not prosperity.

Not surprisingly, those with vested interests in profiting from this climate pollution have given the go-ahead to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which cuts through the east African backcountry, from Western Uganda to the Tanzanian Indian Ocean port in Tanga, almost 1,500km away.

Predictable narrative

The UNEP Production Gap report has shown that the production of coal, oil, and gas must decrease by 6 per cent per year globally. A new pipeline is not consistent with such a trend. The same cast of rich foreigner bankers is using the tired script and predictable narrative which claims that their profit motive and the interests of ordinary Africans are aligned. What a lie! In the case of EACOP, French company Total and China National Offshore Corporation, are among the international financiers keen on profiting from Africa’s climate catastrophe.

Bankroll renewables

It’s good to see pressure from concerned citizens, and many in the Fridays for Future youth movement, being brought to bear on financial institutions to stop financing new fossil fuel projects. Banks like Barclays and Credit Suisse came out to categorically state that they would not participate in financing EACOP. Lenders like the African Development Bank have made it a policy to only bankroll renewables and other green projects. This would suggest momentum is starting to shift, but it needs to move much quicker if we are going to prevent dangerous climate change.

Concerted efforts by groups like deCOALonize through initiatives such as Save Lamu have rallied actors in climate action to make a stand against fossil fuels, leading to the stoppage of a proposed coal-fired plant in the UNESCO world heritage site off the Kenyan coast in Lamu. These efforts should be sustained globally to shine the light on the risk posed by continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel projects.

We should not let ourselves to be held hostage by Big Oil but rather pursue a new approach that places a premium on human development and sustainable projects that are clean and green. Humanity is faced with a global crisis that calls for solidarity and adoption of a model that is in service of people and the planet, rather than corporate profits.

Initiatives like the call for a Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty are timely and crucial in the global race to zero emissions. It is encouraging to note that Nobel Prize laureates from all over the world, as well as scientists, joined forces ahead of the recent climate summit held by US President Joe Biden to express their support for climate action and phasing out of fossil fuels to preserve our planet.

The continued pursuit of fossil fuels exposes us to a global calamity that puts human security at risk. Yet we have an abundance of renewable energy resources on the continent and the opportunity to leapfrog the dirty development path to a new model that is founded on clean energy. Solar power alone can today meet the world’s global energy demands if it could be harnessed correctly, as it is estimated that the amount of radiation from the sun that reaches the earth in one year is sufficient to meet our energy demands for 7,000 to 8,000 years at the current rate of consumption.

What is needed is commitment and leadership. Global leaders have the power and moral responsibility to take bold actions and address the climate crisis facing us.

Now is the time to end new expansion of fossil fuel production and invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100 per cent access to renewable energy across Africa.

Sh10 trillion

Now is the time for developed countries to put their money where their mouth is by honouring a commitment to mobilise at least Sh10 trillion (US$ 100 billion) annually to fund the mitigation and other climate change costs in the developing world. After all, Africa is responsible for less than 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

We have seen the world mustering resources and efforts to ward off the global threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We saw the world come together to stop an arms race through the non-proliferation treaty of nuclear weapons. It is now time for another treaty to save the world by switching off the fossil fuel era.


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