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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Africa Energy Week: Experts call out new plan to sneak fossil fuels into COP27 agenda

As the fossil fuel industry meets this week in Cape Town, South Africa, on the occasion of the Africa Energy Week, the plan is a new push to scale up fossil fuels for “geopolitical leverage”, initiate a “new era” of fossil fuel discoveries, expand into Africa’s “least explored frontiers”, increase their profits through “enhanced oil recovery techniques” (i.e., fracking), redraw Africa’s oil and energy map through new pipelines, and to change laws and regulations to achieve these goals.

Fossil fuel pollution
Fossil fuel pollution from a coal power station

On a continent where fossil fuel infrastructure has left 600 million people stranded without energy access, has polluted the environment and dispossessed communities, and is now ravaging Africa with droughts, fires and floods from climate change, the industry is seeking to “change the narrative of oil and gas development” and characterise it as crucial for an “energy-rich” and “sustainable future”.

Attended by senior European officials and corporations, the Africa Energy Week conference is also seen as an important steppingstone in Europe’s wider effort to “pivot” to Africa for fossil fuels, and to capture Africa’s energy supply for its own use.

The EU has already changed its own rules to claim that fossil gas and nuclear energy investments can be “green”, as a steppingstone to scale up investment and consolidate influence over Africa’s energy supply. It now requires some Africans to take ownership of this European agenda.

At the Africa Energy Week conference, Petroleum ministers from the African Petroleum Producers Organisation (a group of 18 African countries producing fossil fuels) are planning to “share and prepare” a message that Africa will present to the world at the upcoming COP27 climate summit, according to the conference programme.

A small subset of African ministers representing petroleum interests are expected to assert that oil, gas and nuclear have returned to the scene as crucial for energy security, that African ministers reject the “European View of Energy Transition”, and that Africa “establishes its own narrative and its own solutions”.

This will open the door for Europe to respond to “African demands” and then invest heavily in oil, gas and nuclear (to produce hydrogen) for export to Europe. Europe, in turn, will greenwash this pivot at COP27 by announcing a handful of new projects – including so-called Just Energy Transition Partnerships – to camouflage this agenda.

Fossil fuel developments take decades to come online, concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few, sacrifice the health of communities and ecosystems, and don’t even deliver energy to Africans – they’re primarily being planned for export to Europe.

Apart from the questionable effects of prioritising fossil fuels, experts are also concerned that renewable energy investment will take a back seat if such conferences continue to push for oil, gas and nuclear. They are calling for renewable energy to be the focus of the decision makers attending Africa Energy Week.

Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, the Campaigns Lead for Power Shift Africa, stated: “Collusion by European and African energy elites to continue colonising the continent with dirty energy infrastructure, will saddle Africa with dangerous projects that it doesn’t need, entrench the energy apartheid facing millions of Africans, and risk tipping Africa and the world into catastrophic climate disruption.”

Omar Elmawi, the Director of Muslims for Human Rights: “It will keep Africa dirty-energy poor through the dirty, obsolete and unjust energy of the past, rather than making Africa’s people clean-energy rich through the affordable, clean renewable energy systems of the future.”

Avena Jacklin, the Senior Manager for Climate and Energy Justice at groundwork (Friends of the Earth South Africa): “The grand delusion that African gas will provide energy security to the region and the world’s nations is being escalated by petrochemical giants ahead of COP. Leaders need to wake up to the reality that gas energy is costly, and prices are soaring. While African leaders are wooed with short term cash deals, most Africans will remain without electricity. Africans bear the high risk of socio-economic degradation catalysed by theft, insurgency, violence, increased militarisation and displacement that gas extraction brings.

“Africans face the worst impacts of climate change and environmental degradation which will be escalated by upstream and downstream emissions and pollution. African energy needs can be met with cleaner technologies such as solar PV and wind. Better still, they can be installed with a shorter turnaround time, creating safer and more sustainable jobs and livelihoods which can boost long term socio-economic development.”

Courtney Morgan, Campaigner for the African Climate Reality Project: “The Africa Energy Week program is a systematic plan by the fossil fuel industry for the massive scaling up of oil and gas in Africa. It’s a declaration of war on Africa’s sustainable future and the global climate crisis, this is NOT the Africa we want.”

Landry Ninteretse, 350Africa.org Regional Director: “The push for investment in fossil fuels is likely to perpetuate the triple injustices of energy, social and environmental crises hundreds of millions of Africans are confronted with. Such plans will not only lock the continent into reliance on climate-wrecking energy sources but also delay the much-needed transition to renewable energy. It is imperative that officials at Africa Energy Week revise their message and prioritize sustainable, inclusive, and diversified energy plans that directly benefit Africans and protect their basic rights, livelihoods, environment, and future.”

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