From Africa to Europe @ COP27: Keep off our gas fields

History shows fossil fuel extraction in Africa hardly benefits locals

By Tony Malesi
Published: Wednesday 16 November 2022
Africa needs a decentralised but democratic energy system based on the continent’s renewable energy sources. Photo: iStock

Climate activists and experts from Africa have protested the attempts by wealthy countries to consider fossil fuel, particularly Africa’s natural gas, as an alternative energy source at the expense of the ongoing green transition.

The reaction was after it emerged that the wealthy nations, especially Europe, were using other underhand tactics besides pushing the ‘transition fuel’ agenda.

For instance, they had deployed a battalion of over 600 lobbyists at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to promote gas as a substitute low-carbon fuel for high-content fossil fuels like coal and oil

The African activists and experts released a report, “Fossil Fuelled Fallacy: How the Dash for Gas in Africa Will Fail to Deliver on Development,” explaining why the move will further worsen the climate crisis in Africa.

“This report confirms that the pro-gas rhetoric is in no way intended to help African to develop. It is once again a trap to turn Africa into a gas station. We don’t need more fossil fuels,” said Mohamed Adow, a director at Power Shift Africa, a non-profit.

Read more: Climate vulnerable countries, G7 launch plan for quick loss and damage funding

Africa needs a decentralised but democratic energy system based on the continent’s renewable energy sources, he added.

Adow said it was the only way of greening African economies inclusively and fairly. He described it as the real solution to end the continent’s energy apartheid.

It was almost certain the suggestion of a “transition fuel” would not be entertained when the continent is experiencing climate carnage of epic proportions and already transitioning to green energy sources.

The energy crisis and desperation for alternative fossil fuel faced by European countries result from Russia. Russia, a former top supplier has been restricting exports as retaliation against sanctions slapped on them over the Ukraine invasion.

So relentless are the “anti-gas as transition fuel” activists that they have a special campaign christened “Don’t Gas Africa.” The movement is led by African civil society and its sole purpose is to ensure Africa is not locked into mega-fossil gas production, according to their website.

“Europe, multinational fossil fuel entities and their financial backers are willing to subject Africans to needless pollution, environmental degradation and severe vagaries of climate change as they profit,” said Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, a lead activist at Don’t Gas Africa.

Read more: COP27 major sponsor Coca-Cola top plastic polluter for 5 years straight, shows report

He insisted that Europe and other developed countries are up to no good and called upon African leaders to remain firm and reject the ‘transition fuel’ agenda from Europe’s negotiators.

Fossil fuels remain hazardous investments and the desire to expand fossil fuel industries should be condemned by all those concerned about climate change in Africa, according to a new report by the Don’t Gas Africa activists and experts.

The continent needs a green transition even though “fossil fuels are still with us for some time,” said Eng Raila Odinga, Kenya’s former Prime Minister.

We must all agree to go green. It is the only way that we will be able to save the globe and this requires a global approach and determination of all countries, he said, giving reservations about mega fossil fuel investments in Africa by the West.

It’s not just Africa fighting the so-called ‘transition fuel’ agenda by the developed countries. Investors should not fund new mega oil, coal and gas supply projects if the world wants to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, according to The International Energy Agency’s latest report Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.

Read more: ‘Explosion’ in number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP27 climate summit

Africa must prioritise investments in low-carbon and sustainable green energy sources, noted the agency, which works with countries worldwide to shape energy policies for a secure and sustainable future.

Many African leaders, including African Programme Director at Oil Change International, Thuli Makama, said history shows fossil fuel extraction in Africa hardly benefits locals.

Others argued that the Ukraine war would not last long and Africans might be left with ‘white elephant’ infrastructure for fossil fuels as the world switches to renewables.

However, not all African leaders are against fossil fuels, particularly gas, as a transition fuel. For example, Senegalese President Macky Sall said there was no need to rush the transition because the potential benefits of producing and exporting fossil fuels for Africa still outweighed the harm.

“We are all in favour of both a just and fair green transition, instead of decisions that harm our development process,” said Sall, even as he backed the ‘transition fuel’ agenda.

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