Climate Change: EU, Atomic Agency Fear Abandoning Oil Would Cost Africa

The European Union Commission-EU and the International Energy Agency are pushing for increased and prompt climate financing to African countries, an initiative that has dragged on for 13 years now.

The two institutions agree with African leaders that the continent is suffering the effects of climate change more than some other regions, despite contributing the least to the problem.

As such, the fight against climate change has in effect targeted the extractives industry as a main source of global warming especially from the carbon emissions currently and expected in future activities of the industry activities.

Currently, Uganda’s oil and gas sector and the coal industry are clear targets of the climate campaigners who have succeeded in compelling western governments to stop financing fossil fuel projects in Africa.

Speaking at the Africa Energy Week 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa, the EU Vice President, Frans Timmermans reminded the world that climate change and global warming is a challenges for all and should be tackled jointly.

“The climate crisis is our common challenge and a challenge of a lifetime. The window for action is closing fast but it is still open. Many countries in Africa already suffer from the consequences of the climate crisis but bear little responsibility for getting into this crisis.” 

Currently, Uganda’s oil and gas development projects are among the most sought-after by climate activists, who are specifically challenging the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, saying it will produce 34 million tonnes of carbon per year, destroy vegetation and rivers and affect wildlife, among others.

Many, however, have argued that Uganda and other African countries should be helped to reduce the impact of their programs on climate instead of stopping the exploitation of the resources.

The IAEA Deputy Executive Director, Mary Wartick said banning financing of the oil and gas projects in Africa will only abet the violation of the environment and increase the risk of climate change as most people have no access to electricity, for example.

This is after it was revealed at the events in Cape Town, South Africa, that about 600 million people in Africa had no access to electricity and 900 million used unconventional cooking methods, mainly wood.

Wartick called on the financial institutions and multi-lateral funding organizations to rethink their bans on funding oil and particularly gas projects in Africa, fearing that it will fail the continent’s move towards renewable energy.

She said that “these are truly staggering figures” for a continent also faced with a global energy market disrupted by the Russia/Ukraine conflict, poverty, droughts, extreme weather, and food insecurity, yet Africa contributes only 3 percent to cumulative global warming since the start of the industrial revolution.

For the developed world, the war on Ukraine is proving an advantage to the energy transition, according to EU’s Timmermans, who, however, says that the region cannot do without oil and gas.

He said the EU had undergone a significant energy transition and some 24 percent of its energy was now derived from renewable energy such as solar and wind, although oil and gas remained critically important.

He said the crisis was speeding up renewable energy development in the EU “much faster than we had planned.”  

Giving the example of Nigeria, Professor Benedict Oramah, the President of Afreximbank, warned that African countries that rely on petroleum oil suffer huge budgetary deficits if they abandon the industry for renewable energy.

“Divesting from fossil fuel could cut as much as 30 billion dollars off Nigeria’s GDP and almost 190bn dollars off the continent’s GDP,” he said, adding that already there are effects of banning the funding and this would see the export earnings and revenues of many countries dry up.

“Our transition (carbon-free energy) must be sensible and pragmatic. It must address the development gap and the continent’s ability to address climate change.”

The meeting that brings together investors, financiers, suppliers, policymakers, and others related to the industry, comes as the world prepares for the global climate conference, COP27, next month in Egypt.   

Timmermans, who is also head of the EU climate policy told a pre-COP27 meeting by African countries in Kinshasa, DRC that the EU was working tirelessly to come up with a package for Africa.

Africa was promised 100 billion dollars per annum in 2009 for climate change, but 13 years later, the funding stands at 30 billion dollars.

At COP27, the continent will be pushing for funds worth 1.3 trillion dollars per year to help disaster-prone countries like East and Horn of Africa countries, and also the southern African region.

Earlier, at the Africa Energy Conference in Brussels in June 2022, the EU boss also reasoned that those responsible for the most emissions must take responsibility to curb it.

“Africa is suffering a lot from the consequences of the climate crisis, without bearing any responsibility for how we got into the climate crisis. We are also suffering. But we’re also very much aware of the fact that it is our economic bubble that has got us into that problem,” he said then.  

According to him, there is a need to help all the countries increase the output of renewable energy because the more the production rates, the cheaper it would get, while the more the demand for fossil fuels, the more that price will go up.  

“Sometimes one or two of the major emitters try and hide behind the status of being a developing country, which is no longer an acceptable posture. Major emitters should all take responsibility to reduce their emissions.”

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