ABIDJAN, Nov 24, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - African oil and gas producers are
likely to pay little heed to the mounting clamour to scrap fossil fuels, the
biggest driver of the world's climate crisis.
Adding to the pressure, the UN climate summit in Glasgow this month called
for greater efforts towards a "phasedown" of unhampered coal emissions and
"inefficient fossil fuel subsidies."
The call was diluted after hours of tortuous debate, but even so was
historic. It marked the first time that a UN text made specific reference to
the energy sources driving global heating.
But African producer nations may well turn a deaf ear to appeals for early
curtailment of fossils.
Compared to giant polluters, they are small contributors to the
greenhouse-gas problem -- and many argue that renouncing oil and gas at this
point could cripple development and deepen poverty.
"Limiting the development of fossil-fuel projects and, in particular,
natural gas projects, would have a profoundly negative impact on Africa,"
Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, whose country is Africa's major
fossil-fuel producer, said recently.
Natural gas "is a crucial tool for lifting people out of poverty" in many
African countries, he cautioned.
Osinbajo took up the well-versed argument that a global switchout from
carbon-based fuels had to account for economic differences between countries.
For poorer countries, "the transition must not come at the expense of
affordable and reliable energy... (and) the right to sustainable development
and poverty eradication," he said.
- 'Debt and corruption' -
But his widely-shared idea that fossil-fuel development helps eradicate
poverty comes up against some hard facts.
In African countries that have had a bonanza from oil and gas production,
little of the windfall has trickled down to the poorest, and suspicions of
boundless corruption and sickening waste run deep.
In Angola, sub-Saharan Africa's second largest crude producer, oil
accounts for half of gross domestic product and 89 percent of exports.
Yet more than half of the 34 million population survive on less than $2 a
day, and the unemployment rate is at 31 percent.
President Joao Lourenco has launched an anti-corruption campaign aimed at
netting billions of dollars he suspects were embezzled under his predecessor
Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
"If one looks at the pattern of fossil fuels in Africa, it's very clear
that it hasn't contributed" to development, said Mozambican environmental
activist Daniel Ribeiro.
Instead, he said, "it increases debt, it increases corruption."
In his own country, the authorities have set down ambitious plans to
exploit immense natural gas deposits off its northeastern coast.
Ribeiro accused multinational fossil fuel companies of using tax havens,
with the result that Mozambique's economy will get little revenue from the
Instead, benefits flow to the "ruling elite" and the Frelimo party, in
power since independence in 1975, he charged.
That is why the Mozambican government are "really fighting against any
kind of 'no to gas' movement," he said.
In West Africa, anger is growing in Ivory Coast among people who say they
have seen little wealth trickle down to them after decades of oil and gas
exploitation on the petroleum-rich coastline.
In late October locals blocked work to lay down a new gas pipeline.
"They have been extracting oil since I was born, and I live in poverty,"
said Duval Nevry, 27, in the village of Addah.
"I don't understand why a village that has an oil rig has no fire station
and no secondary school, or why the hospitals don't have supplies," added
Jean Biatchon N'Drin, 32.
- Funding key -
If African countries are aware of the negatives of oil and gas, they also
see relatively little help for switching to cleaner renewables.
The continent has huge potential in solar, wind and other green sources.
The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that -- with access to
the appropriate funding -- renewables could account for up to 67 percent of
sub-Saharan Africa's electricity generation by 2030.
In 2009, rich countries promised to muster $100 billion a year by 2020 to
help vulnerable countries tackle climate change.
The promise remains unkept, and is further clouded by debate about how the
money should be allocated.
A dozen years ago, the expectation was that the funds would focus on
helping developing nations transition to cleaner energy.
Since then, a string of catastrophic droughts and floods has spurred
demands that funds be used more to shore up climate defences rather than
reduce carbon emissions.
But this money would in any case be a fraction of what is needed.
Trillions of dollars, not billions, are needed just to adapt to the
impacts of global warming, according to a draft report by the UN's science
experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scheduled for
release early next year.
"The question of financing remains one of the major challenges to be taken
up," said Cheikh Tidiane Wade, a Senegalese geographer specialising in