The most vulnerable continent in the world in terms of energy, Africa …

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These are the voluntary commitments that are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and reflect each country’s effort to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

SA’s updated figures considerably increase our commitments as they bring forward by ten years the date on which they will start to reduce their emissions: they will start to decrease from 2025 rather than from 2035, the new target for 2030 being set at 32% less than before.

The Cabinet approved the Climate Change Bill, which will ease the transition to a greener economy and force businesses to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s promising. Along with the overwhelming imperative to wean global economies from fossil fuels, it is becoming evident that growth and climate action must not be compromised. And clearly, some in our government (but more in business) have recognized this.

Rather than being a cost, taking climate action can generate powerful socio-economic benefits. New climate economy research shows that bold climate action could deliver at least $ 26 trillion in global economic benefits by 2030.

It could also generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030, a number equivalent to the combined workforce of the UK and Egypt today; prevent more than 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution compared to the status quo; and generate around $ 2.8 trillion in government revenue in 2030 through subsidy reform and carbon pricing alone.

But not everyone is on the same page. As recently as last week, SA’s famous Independent Power Producers Bureau (IPPO) approached the Association of Independent Power Producers (SAIPPA) for support and assistance in their quest to commission a series of independent coal-fired power plants. The answer was a categorical no.

This is the same office that is renowned for its role in supplying 6,422 MW of renewable electricity from 112 independent power producers (IPPs) and in securing investments in equity and debt. ‘worth 201.8 billion rand, of which 25% was foreign investment. IPPO must be under pressure to deliver new coal projects – maybe from the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy? But Gwede Mantashe is not alone in wanting to capitalize on Africa’s abundance of fossil fuels.

The fossil fuel industry plans to invest $ 230 billion in developing new oil and gas production in Africa over the next decade, reaching $ 1.4 trillion by 2050. C According to a new report, The Sky’s Limit Africa, which makes one wonder what interests are being served by the fossil fuel industry. It has been researched by Oil Change International and published in partnership with Oilwatch Africa, Africa Coal Network, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, 350Africa, WoMin African Alliance and the Center for International Environmental Law.

The analysis reveals that 71% of the new oil and gas production expected in Africa over the next 30 years would come from relatively expensive modes of production or from countries without an established industry. These factors increase the risk of new projects being blocked, creating funding gaps to clean up environmental damage, overnight job losses and gaps in state revenue.

But it does raise a controversial subject. Africa is the most vulnerable continent in the world when it comes to energy. More than 600 million people do not have access to electricity and in 24 countries, less than half of the population does not have access to electricity. This is Africa’s biggest limitation. Why should an entire continent be penalized for a problem it did not create in the first place?

This debate became heated last week as members of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the UN’s flagship climate fund, discussed the decarbonization conditions that should be imposed on organizations from developing countries to the finance research.

Some board members, from developed countries, had proposed that the fund sever its partnership with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). Alternatively, if DBSA were to be re-accredited, the bank would have to adopt a target of net zero emissions for 2050 across its portfolio, and an interim target for 2030, within a year of approval of accreditation. The DBSA does not have a policy of excluding fossil fuels and should demonstrate how it diverts its loans and investments from carbon-intensive activities.

It smacks of paternalism. The GCF was created to help less developed countries reduce their emissions and cope with climate impacts. It depends on agencies like DBSA to carry out projects in the poorest countries. It is with support, not threats, that instruments such as the GCF can be used to enable a fair and managed phase-out of fossil fuel production.

Jean-Paul Adam, director of technology, climate change and natural resource management at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, told me that in some cases one could advocate for investments. in fossil fuels, as in natural gas, which could lead to the craze for renewable energies.

What is clear to me is that Africa must lead the energy revolution, moving beyond fossil fuels – and that it will benefit. But Africa cannot do it alone. And neither should he. Just in South Africa, the cost is estimated at R4-billion. Developed countries have a responsibility to provide funding and support – and the world will be watching the leaders meet in Glasgow at the end of the month. DM168

Sasha Planting is Associate Editor at Business Maverick.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest dealer, please click here.


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