By Ekemini Simon
As the world gradually shifts its attention to resolutions that will be made in less than two weeks at the inaugural Africa Climate Summit scheduled to hold in Nairobi, Kenya on September 4th- 6th 2023, environmental experts have already taken a review whether the summit will indeed birth a just energy transition Africa yearns for.
Glaringly, despite several decades of scramble for Africa’s energy resources through extractivism, Africans still live in a polluted environment and in darkness.
African nations where dirty energy is being extracted have witnessed the worst cases of climate disasters such as cyclone, flooding, sea level rise, drought, desertification among others.
It is on this backdrop that there have been summits designed to change the narrative with the recent being the Africa Climate Summit, championed by the President of Kenya, President William Ruto and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change among other organisations.
According to the organisers, the summit aims to address the increasing exposure to climate change and its associated costs, both globally and particularly in Africa. They noted that the summit is designed to serve as a platform to inform, frame, and influence commitments, pledges, and outcomes, ultimately leading to the development of what will come to be known as the Nairobi Declaration.
The Africa Climate Week will consider major systems-based tracks with a view to providing region-focused contributions to inform the global stocktake on: Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World, Carbon markets for the global south; Carbon markets activation plan, Pioneering the Future of Nature in Africa, Blue economy; advancing africa’s blue economy , liveable cities, Transforming Africa’s food systems and Side events.
Yet, experts insist that what is presented by the summit as an agenda has not given a clear direction on how Africa can attain a just transition. But how through is this alarm raised?
Position by Friends of the Earth International
In a Webinar on “How Just is the Transition in Africa? held on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, Tyler Booth of Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy Program Coordinator noted that instead of focusing on climate finance Solutions for Africa, Africa should drive its own green growth and support global renewable energy needs.
On the summit’s agenda for carbon markets for the global south; carbon markets activation plan, Booth noted that Africa does not need carbon markets, rather it needs real climate finance. She explained that carbon markets are dangerous distractions and do not offer a finance solution that will reach grassroots communities already feeling the impacts of climate change.
Booth insisted that the agenda on advancing Africa’s blue economy still boils down to the commodification of nature.
Commenting on the summit’s agenda on liveable cities, Booth queries ” But what about our rural areas? Data from the World Bank estimates 58 percent of the total population lives in rural areas in sub-saharan Africa. In Africa, over 400 million people live in rural areas”.
On the agenda of transforming Africa’s food systems, she said what is needed is to ensure the food system is towards food sovereignty and agroecology.
She insisted that what is missing in the agenda that is of real concern to Africa is the need for fossil fuel phase-out commitments, just transition,100 percent renewable energy for Africa and the need to put people in the front of climate change solutions which are the environment and the people.
Yet, with the agenda of the African Climate Summit already having its gaps, how then can Africa achieve a just transition?
What African Transition can look like – Position by Don’t Gas Africa
Facilitator of Don’t Gas Africa, Lorraine Chiponda posits that if Africa must transit, it must decolonize systems that have been shaped by colonialism and reduce dependence.
She recommended that Africa must decentralize systems so they serve people and the environment, champion people’s alternative circular economies and ensure food and water sovereignty, monetary and energy sovereignty.
Chiponda insists that a just African transition will break free from development traps and false solutions.
She highlighted others to include ensuring African ownership and agency in energy initiatives and plans, integrating energy systems design into wider development objectives and planning, establishing clear policy priorities, such as support for clean cooking and diversification of energy generation and ownership.
Chiponda added that an African transition would provide scope for the delivery of energy as a common good, foster energy democratisation, ensure people participation, equity and sufficiency in terms of energy use and rapidly move away from fossil fuels and their legacy extractivism, and displacement.
Regardless, what model or plan can Africa use to achieve this?
The Route to a Just Energy Transition in Africa
Ubrei-Joe Maimoni, who doubles as the Coordinator Climate Justice and Energy Program for Friends of the Earth Africa and as well as Program Manager for Environmental Rights Action Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in his presentation outlined the pathway to a just energy transition.
Maimoni said the proposed Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa is envisioned as an innovative way of boosting peoples-centred recovery. He noted that this will create jobs at the same time as reducing emissions and addressing energy inequality.
The proposed Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa is a document that was prepared to address previous and future climate disasters. It is meant to support a just recovery from the climate and COVID 19 crisis.
Maimoni explained that the Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa offers a practical opportunity to change the trajectory of energy development, distribution and access.
He noted that it opens up energy systems to a more democratic process, frees them from the power of Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and enables people and communities to access sufficient energy.
According to him ” That is why the Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa demands a drastic reduction of fossil fuel emissions and calls for powering Africa with 100 percent renewable energy for all, while staying under the 1.5°C scenario.
“Current estimates suggest that if no action is taken now, the global carbon dioxide emissions will approach an alarming level around 2050, which will certainly cause a disastrous climate crisis and will be a death knell for most of Africa and many other parts of the world.”
What is more, the Coordinator stated that the plan makes a case for African governments to recognize socially owned and controlled renewable energy as a right and ensure that it is prioritised in policy agenda and fiscal budgets.
He added that the plan warns that energy should not be developed solely for profit but to ensure dignity of all peoples and reduce energy poverty as a catalyst to sustainable societies.
Maimoni offered insight to the fact that the plan calls on African governments to work with all people and remove all obstacles that may retard progress and/or detract from attaining this goal.
He said this plan shows that Africa needs approximately $130 billion a year (including heating) between now and 2050 as investment towards achieving the 100 percent renewable energy goal. Yet, how would such a huge fund be sourced?
Source of Funding for Africa’s Just Energy Transition Identified
Maimoni pointed out that the Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan identifies three funding sources that could enable the African continent to achieve the goal and produce enough energy to meet demand and eliminate energy poverty.
These sources, he said include the demand for the developed world to meet its long-standing climate finance commitment in compensating the developing world for climate change impacts, loss and damage and providing finance for mitigation, debt cancellation for African countries, and implementation of measures to eliminate tax evasion and the flow of illicit funds.
Be that as it may, the plan must be built on a very important foundation. What is this foundation? Maimoni stated “Friends of the Earth Africa believes that a Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa built on environmental, social, gender and economic justice is urgently needed to address all the impacts of the multiple interrelated crises across the continent, which are being compounded by the neo-liberal doctrine.
“Such a recovery plan must be centred on the wellbeing of peoples and the planet and be based on a justice perspective, so it can contribute to solving all these systemic crises.”
But most importantly, Maimoni stressed that the key call from Friends of the Earth Africa is that the global North should not let Africa burn. Will this call be adhered to? The answer lies in the future.