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African countries stand firm on fossil fuels

Local News
African Group of Negotiators chairperson Collins Nzovu (left) and Environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu (right) at a press conference at COP28 in Dubai. Picture by Farai Shawn Matiashe

The African Group of Negotiators is calling for an outcome that allows Africa to exploit its fossil fuels including coal, oil and gas to eradicate poverty while also funding renewable energy projects.

This comes amid demands to end fossil fuels from climate change activists and other leaders around the world.

Even the Global Stocktake text, a fundamental component of the Paris Agreement of 2015 used to monitor its implementation and evaluate the collective progress, released on Monday was heavily criticised for not containing a clear language on the phasing out of fossil fuels.

Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai on Tuesday, African Group of Negotiators chair Collins Nzovu said it must be understood that Africa would need to exploit its natural resources and renewable energy endowments to achieve universal access to energy.

“The Global Stocktake outcome must promote equity and fairness in the allocation of policy space, and ensure that the energy transition will be just, equitable and orderly, as such the transition should be premised on differentiated pathways to net zero and fossil-fuel phasedown,” said Nzovu, Zambia’s Minister of Green Economy and Environment.

“It should also recognize the full right for Africa to exploit its natural resources sustainably and in line with sustainable development and poverty eradication needs.”

African governments are arguing that they should be allowed to invest in fossil fuels, a key foreign currency earner, given that the continent emits less than 4 percent.

Africa is the least electrified in the world with over 50 percent of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa having electricity access rates below 50 percent, while 600 million people are without access to electricity which is central for the provision of basic services, including primary health, clean water, education.

Africa holds 6 percent of known global reserves of oil and gas and accounts for about 12 percent of global production.

Africa is the second largest exporting region with 16 percent of total exports, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Crude oil production in Africa is estimated at almost 10 million barrels per day, representing about 10 percent of global crude oil production according to the African Energy Commission (AFREC).

Nzovu said these resources are crucial to Africa’s development as a means of earning foreign exchange and a positive balance of payments.

“Therefore, significant concessional financial support for our transition is essential, if we are to move away from the exploitation of fossil fuels,” he said.

“Many African countries are also developing national energy transition plans with a mixed energy portfolio that includes the use of natural gas as a transitional fuel while seeking to increase energy produced from renewable energy.”

Beatrice Anywar Atim, a Ugandan minister of State for Environment said her country plans to use funds generated from fossil fuels to finance renewable energy projects.

“Uganda’s energy transition plan requires $7 billion while fossil fuel development in Uganda will bring $47 billion,” she said adding countries like Uganda whose energy mix is green energy must be allowed to develop their natural resources to get money to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Speaking at the same press conference, Balarabe Lawal, Nigerian minister of environment, said the West African nation is not phasing out fossil fuels.

“Science has established that if you stop breathing without life support you will die. To ask Nigeria or Africa to phase out fossil fuels is asking us to stop breathing without life support. It is unacceptable,” he said.

“Nigeria is committed to tripling renewable energy. Tripling renewable energy requires resources, transfer of technology and capacity building.”

Next year’s COP will be held in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, and in 2025 it will be in Belém, in Brazil’s Amazon region.

*This story was produced with support from MESHA and IDRC Eastern and Southern Africa office.


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