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Rich Countries Should Stop Pushing Fossil Fuels on Africa – Don’t We Deserve a Renewable Future Too?

It’s official: we’re about to reach peak fossil fuels. New figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show that the shift to renewable energy is now unstoppable – and that demand for oil and gas should begin to decline by the end of this decade. This decline is not fast enough to prevent our climate warming irreversibly, but it is a death knell for fossil fuels.

In response, leaders of rich countries will be showing off wind turbines on their coasts and pointing to shiny electric cars on their streets. But they’ve spent the past few years persuading African countries to increase their gas expansion instead. There’s $245bn of gas infrastructure planned in Africa, and gas-rich countries such as Mozambique have faced an onslaught of foreign companies fishing for contracts to extract their gas.

Rich countries have always had their eyes on Africa as a new source of gas, but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up prices, their thirst for African gas has increased as their own energy security has wobbled.

These projects were pushed as a huge opportunity to boost our economies. But they were never in our interests, because burning or selling fossil fuels is a terrible deal for Africa. First, because the gas extracted from African countries won’t generate electricity for their populations, even though 600 million of us in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to it. Instead, it’s for export to rich countries. Second, because burning more gas worsens climate breakdown and brings catastrophic droughts and famines – especially in African countries. In addition, fossil fuel plants have often meant disaster for the communities living around them. In Cabo Delgado, in Mozambique, the gas industry destroyed the lives and livelihoods of the locals but delivered few of the promised jobs and compensation. In Nigeria, oil drilling contaminated air, land and water, exposed people to toxic chemicals and lowered life expectancy.

Oil and gas giants have sold African leaders big promises that gas is the key to development. But this week’s analysis by energy experts at the IEA makes those seem even more dubious. It predicts that beyond 2025 there could be too much natural gas in the global energy system, causing a “gas glut”.

For fossil fuel corporations, that means a marginal hit to profits – and their bets are spread. For African countries persuaded into gas projects, a dwindling market for gas could mean an economic crisis that could lead to cuts in national spending and difficulties repaying national debt. We’ve been burned like this by fossil fuels before: African countries that export oil saw revenue halved at the start of this decade. As we enter the dying days of fossil fuels, gas infrastructure in Africa could go out of date almost as soon as it’s built.

That leaves us behind in the renewable energy transition that rich countries are leaping on for themselves. Money spent on building gas supply infrastructure is money that can’t be used for investment in the industry of the future: clean, secure, renewable energies such as solar and wind.

Africans know where the world is heading, and we’re determined not to be left behind. In October our governments held the first ever African Climate Summit and called for global support to quintuple our renewable energy capacity.

There’s no need to double down on failing fossil fuels in Africa when we have never-ending wind and sun. We are the world’s youngest continent, full of entrepreneurs ready to deliver a manufacturing revolution in global renewables. Nobody is more motivated to tackle the climate crisis than Africans: the continent hit hardest that the did least to cause it. We can deliver a world powered by wind and solar – with the calmer climate, cheaper bills and reliability that come along with it.

When African people get to choose, we choose renewables. But will rich countries finally allow us to determine our own future? They need to meet us halfway instead of tying our hands behind our back with gas pipelines. Right now only 2% of investment in renewables goes to Africa. That must change: development banks should prioritise renewables, better grants and financing for Africa and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels. The money can and must be found in a historic effort by public institutions and private money to prioritise a just energy transition.

This year at the UN Cop climate talks, world governments can finally choose to support Africa to become a renewable energy powerhouse, so we can produce the renewable energy, minerals and technology that the whole world needs. As leaders talk about tripling global renewables, they must discuss funding Africa to quintuple our renewable energy generation and agree national plans to phase out their own fossil fuel use. And they need to pay for the damage they have done to Africa through climate breakdown by finally contributing to the loss and damage fund.

It’s time to decide. Will rich nations’ governments keep holding Africa back by making us a dumping ground for the dying fossil fuel industry? Or will they finally let us lead the world in delivering a secure, just and clean future?

Source : The Guardian