Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Global Advisor to the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) Former Vice President of Nigeria
The reality of climate change is undeniable. The consequences of environmental degradation and global warming are felt across the globe, with Africa bearing the brunt of its devastating impact. Temperatures on the continent are rising, rainfall patterns are changing, and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and storms are having severe consequences on agriculture, water resources, biodiversity, and human livelihoods. The results are equally clear: chronic food insecurity, forced displacements, and serious economic losses. Drought in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya have led to the deaths of 9.5 million livestock, while the worst food crisis in 40 years is impacting an estimated 140 million people across Africa.
Without a doubt, fossil fuel dependency has exacerbated the impact of climate change. A world economy four times larger than today’s is projected to need 80% more energy in 2050 without new policy action. According to the OECD, if we do not actively adopt a green energy pathway, the global energy mix in 2050 will not differ significantly from today’s, with the share of energy from fossil fuels at about 85%, renewables, including biofuels, at just over 10%, and the rest being nuclear energy. And, were Africa to develop along the same carbon-intensive trajectory that wealthier countries have taken, it would add 12 gigatones of CO2e emissions annually by 2050, putting global net zero by that time well outside of reach.
But there is an alternative paradigm: one where Africa is enabled by targeted investments and global consensus to pursue a climate positive growth plan. Africa’s endowments enable low-emission production. With its abundance of natural resources, untapped renewable energy sources, and a youthful population, Africa could leapfrog to widespread adoption of low emission production, green technologies and practices to meet its growing demand for energy, goods and services without increasing the continent’s footprint or dramatically escalating global emissions.
With its greenfield low-emission production capacity, Africa can meet the global need for low embedded carbon production and take advantage of its closeness to consumer markets to efficiently become the green production factory of the world. It is also possible within the same context to ramp up Africa’s capacity for carbon removal, using a combination of land use and ecosystem management, as well as investment in emerging removal technologies. By pursuing a green course of growth without concerns about costly legacy infrastructure that more developed economies would have, Africa has the potential to lead the way towards a truly sustainable and green future.
This would however come at significant cost. A climate positive growth plan for Africa would involve some compromises: a grand bargain of sorts with Africa. Some ideas are emerging to define this relationship. On their part, African countries will formulate clear, national strategies, policies and regulations for climate positive growth, linked to specific targets for net negative contributions to global emissions. The international community, on its part, would undertake to make the required investments in Africa’s renewable energy and work out trade rules that would give access to low emission products, and also facilitate the rapid development of fair and equitable carbon markets.
The financing for this purpose ought to be appropriately nuanced to surmount the competition inhibiting risk premium, and cost of capital challenges that Africa faces. A good mix of development finance would be important, alongside patient, and flexible, financing instruments, some of which have been used successfully for financing renewables. All these might involve some rejigging of the global financial architecture.
In a round table meeting during the Global Financial Pact Summit held in June in Paris, France, Kenyan President William Ruto called for a re-engineering of the engagement between the West and the international financial institutions to make them more responsive to the needs of Africa: “Africa has the greatest potential for renewable energy – from solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. Kenya is already leading the way with 92 per cent of our grid being green. At this global citizen event, we call for a global financial system that is fit for purpose. One that does not put the West against the East, the North against the South, or emitters against those who don’t emit, or the developed against the developing. We want a financial system that is fair and transparent, and it isn’t too much to ask for a fair system,” President Ruto said.
With a paradigm that shifts Africa’s location from victim to solution, a win win pathway to a just, equitable and inclusive transition is clear. Africa has a sustainable pathway to energy access, jobs and and the multiple benefits that clean energy solutions bring, including improved health and reduced pollution. By ensuring equitable access to renewable energy, the continent can contribute positively to global climate goals while uplifting the lives of its people.
Leading the Way in Energy Transition
The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) is at the forefront of identifying new ways to drive meaningful change in the clean energy landscape. GEAPP’s vision : ‘Act together to catalyse a clean energy transition for everyone’ is undergirded by audacious goals for supporting clean energy transitions across low and middle-income countries in terms of carbon emissions reduction, expansion of energy access, increased job opportunities and improved livelihoods.
By uniting philanthropy, government, finance, technology, and implementation partners, GEAPP seeks to unlock innovative solutions, share knowledge, and drive energy access in emerging markets. Through a bottom-up approach that involves local communities and marginalized groups, GEAPP aims to forge a coalition of philanthropy, government, finance, technology, and implementation partners. A good example of this broad-based facilitation and collaboration is GEAPP’s work, in partnership with the Nigerian government and SEforALL, to scope and fund Nigeria’s cross-government Energy Transition Office. This office leads a mix of energy sector planning, policy and regulation reform, and effective delivery and implementation of solar micro grids. All of this is designed to accelerate energy access in a country where 500GW+ of electricity is currently accessed through diesel and gasoline generators, with the main grid producing only 4GW of actual operating capacity.
The inclusivity aspect of the transition also means ensuring an energy transition which empowers local communities and marginalized groups. Their voices must be heard, and their needs addressed in climate policies. Indigenous communities, often most vulnerable to climate change, offer valuable knowledge and practices that can contribute to sustainable solutions.
The movement for a just energy transition is gathering momentum. The upcoming Africa Climate Summit, taking place in Nairobi from 4th to 6th September 2023, under the theme “Driving Green Growth & Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World,” serves as a pivotal platform to champion the green energy transition agenda. The Summit promises to provide a crucial forum for African nations to collaborate, strategize, and foster partnerships, which accelerate progress towards a just and inclusive clean energy future. We stand at a pivotal moment in history, where the choices we make today will determine the trajectory of our planet and the wellbeing of billions. A just energy transition is not merely a choice; it is an urgent imperative for the survival of our planet and for green, inclusive social and economic progress.