Africa will have to give up gas exploration to avert climate disaster, warn experts

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Africa should turn to renewable energy and stop seeking its potentially lucrative gas reserves to avert a climate catastrophe and provide access to clean energy to millions of people who lack it, according to the continent’s leading experts.

His call came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that gas and oil production was an “illusion” anywhere in the world.

With gas prices soaring around the world, many African leaders are considering pushing for new investment in exploration. Some European countries are also keen to provide such investments to replace supplies from Russia.

Last week, Ireland’s former president, UN human rights chief and UN climate envoy Mary Robinson sparked controversy when she backed an extension for African countries to tap their gas reserves.

She said the gas should be used for clean cooking and to generate electricity within the continent for the 600 million people who don’t have access to electricity and for the 900 million who subsist on biomass or dirty oil, rather than exporting it profitably . made.

Mohamed Addo, director of think tank Power Shift Africa and winner of the 2020 Climate Breakthrough Prize, said Robinson was wrong.

“We cannot rely on the failed system of the last 200 years for the energy access that Africans need to provide in order to achieve a life of dignity. We need to step up our thinking and invest in decentralized renewable energy systems that feed our rivers. Won’t poison us, pollute our air, clog our lungs and few will benefit,” he told the Guardian.

Distinguishing between people in the West and Africa, he said: “Climate justice advocates actually living in Africa have made it very clear that we want access to energy for all – but equally for all of us as climate disasters. I don’t want to close.”

He was joined by Nimmo Bassi, Health Director of the Mother Earth Foundation in Nigeria. Highlighting the experiences of Nigeria, the Niger Delta and Mozambique, he said, “Decades of oil and gas exploration on the continent have fed foreign markets and only muddied the waters, created violence and left people cold and dark.” I left. ” , marked by pollution and greed for profit by some, while the local population remained poor.

He accused political leaders of ignoring these concerns: “Sadly, despite local opposition and the realities of ecology in the fossil fuel sector, African politicians who act as go-betweens for international companies love to parrot this song.” Huh.”

Omar Elmawi, a StopEACOP campaign coordinator in East Africa, said: “Decades after Africa’s fossil fuel depletion, we still need to address fuel poverty and unsafe credit that countries have taken out on promised fossil fuel revenues. The sinking continued.

“Companies registered in the Global North continue to benefit from these dirty fossil fuels in Africa and the impact we are all having on our people, nature and the climate.”

The gas issue in Africa is likely to be a focal point at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt this November. Robinson’s views, first voiced in an interview with the Guardian, sparked an uproar at the UN climate talks in Bonn, where countries have been meeting for the past two weeks in preliminary talks on Cop 27.

Several African countries are believed to be advocating allowing the use of COP27 to harness their gas for the continent, taking advantage of the fossil fuel bonanza that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Egypt is showing understanding as Finance Minister Mohamed Mait recently told an audience in the City of London that poor countries should not be “punished”.

However, Guterres made it clear on Tuesday morning in a speech at the Austrian world summit in Vienna that no new fossil fuels should be invested.

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He added: “New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is illusory. It will only increase the scourge of war, pollution and climate destruction. The only true hope for energy security, stable electricity prices, prosperity and a livable planet.” The way forward is to do without polluting fossil fuels, especially coal, and to accelerate the energy transition based on renewable energies.

He didn’t specifically mention Africa, but indicated that the continent was included: “Renewable energy is the peace plan of the 21st century. Cheaper, more reliable and better energy options are already available in the form of wind and solar power.” This applies to all regions.”

He called for tripling investment in renewable energy, removing the bureaucracy that blocks wind and solar projects, and making more underlying technology available for use in poor countries through intellectual property sharing, known as technology transfer. did.

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