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Why COP27 can be turning point for fighting climate change, ending poverty – Osinbajo

In his remarks at a virtual event on Climate Finance organised by the Atlantic Council and held on April 13, 2022, Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, says that, in the run up to COP27 in Egypt, Africa must not only be proactive, but also be assertive of its needs

Yemi Osinbajo
Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo

Every nation must play its part in solving the dual crises of global poverty and climate change. Africa must be committed to solving both of these emergencies because both poverty and a warming planet affect us more than any other region. We are absolutely clear that Africa must be proactive, we must be assertive of our needs, and we must do a better job of making our views heard. That is what to expect in Egypt.

Before I explain Nigeria’s climate commitments and what we expect from our international partners, permit me to start with three core facts.

One, energy is a stark and inexcusable example of global inequality. The pandemic has laid bare the realities of global inequality, that certain regions are hit the hardest, and that the global response is usually uneven and unjust. Today, less than 10 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated.

Inequality is just as unforgivable when it comes to energy: 48 sub-Saharan countries – our entire region minus South Africa, are home to more than one billion people, yet we all use less electricity than Spain.

We should not accept a world where any person uses less electricity than an American refrigerator.

My second point is around the curious term of a Just Transition. Climate policy accepts that a Just Transition is necessary to ensure no communities get left behind. But the concept of justice narrowly applies to easing the pain of coal communities in the US, Germany, India, and South Africa as they transition away from coal.

But what is a Just Transition for countries with no coal and deep energy poverty? A Just Energy Transition would mean something very different for every other African country, including my own Nigeria. For us, a Just Transition means a lot more energy, not less and climate justice must include ending global energy poverty.

Every person on the planet deserves to have modern energy. Every person deserves a job. All modern economies require abundant, affordable and reliable energy. And with the impacts of climate change bearing down on us, every nation must have enough energy to build resilient infrastructure, deliver essential public services, and provide the cooling and air conditioning to withstand a warming planet. I’ll say this again: climate justice must include ending energy poverty.

My third point, every country must find its own path to a low carbon future. The EU decision to label both gas and nuclear as green energy is a clear recognition that Europe knows that countries need a wide range of options.

The United States too has a long-term plan that includes an array of different technologies that meet the needs of diverse communities across the country. Africa too will find its own path. Africa too will use an array of technologies that meet the needs of diverse countries across the continent.

What about Nigeria? Again, let’s start with a few facts:

By 2050, Nigeria will be the third-largest country in the world, surpassing the United States in population. We will also be majority urban. Lagos will top 30 million people. That’s 50 percent bigger than metropolitan New York today. So, Nigeria must meet the energy and employment needs of both rural communities and very large populations concentrated in megacities.

So, Nigeria will require huge investments in new infrastructure. We’re going to build more roads, ports, industrial parks, and especially power systems. For every Nigerian to consume the Modern Energy Minimum of 1,000 kilowatts per hour per year by 2050, we would require a 15-fold increase in our national power generation today. To ensure every household has access to cleaner cooking, it will require access to LPG, biogas and electric cooking for the tens of millions of families still cooking with wood and charcoal.

What is Nigeria’s energy transition plan? President Buhari pledged at COP26 that Nigeria will reach net zero emissions by 2060. At the same time, an immediate priority is to create 20 million jobs and rebuild our industries. We must add more than 200 gigawatts of new power capacity, principally utility-scale solar by 2060. We will need to upgrade our power infrastructure, especially for transmission and distribution, using a strategic mix of grid and mini-grid systems. We also must reduce our reliance on inefficient and dirty diesel generators and end gas flaring by capturing that resource for productive uses.

To be successful we will need partners. The majority of investment in our energy transition will come from our own national resources. But we estimate we need an additional $410 billion above business-as-usual investment to meet our goals.

The $8.5 billion package pledged to South Africa to accelerate its transition off coal provides an important signal of global support for Africa’s energy transition – but it can’t just be about South Africa.

Nigeria, with five times more people and far deeper energy poverty, will need a transition package of at least $10 billion per year for the next two decades to fund new generation, transmission infrastructure, smart grids, data management systems, and storage capacity to integrate new distributed renewable energy systems.

We are not asking for charity but we’re asking for partnership: to mobilize private capital, harness clean technology supply chains, and transform our economy while protecting lives and livelihoods.

Like other regions, Africa will need flexibility too. In the United States and in Europe, it is accepted that natural gas is a transition fuel and necessary for energy security. In rich nations, gas is still used for cooking, heating, industry, and for balancing a power system, especially as more variable wind and solar are added to the grid. Yet it has somehow become fashionable to deny this same flexibility to Africa.

To assume that we can leapfrog fossil fuels without working with us to understand our challenges and our needs is clearly unjust and will delay our development and our transition to a cleaner future.

Just to be very clear, Nigeria will have a low-carbon energy future. We are committed to the Paris Accord. We will reach net zero emissions by 2060. We aim to build a 21st Century economy for our people using the latest technologies to create competitive jobs and lift our people into the middle classes.

Our energy transition plan projects 70% of our electricity will come from solar. But to get there, we will need natural gas over the next two decades to provide cleaner cooking, to power our industry, to generate electricity, and to balance large influxes of solar power. Fortunately, we have our own gas resources which we need to use, not only for export earnings but for our own development.

That is why I, along with many other African leaders, are concerned about new financing rules making it very difficult for developing countries to access finance for gas-to-power. Yes, we know there are some exceptions. But we are already seeing the investment rules limit the technology choices of African countries in ways that do not apply to wealthy nations. Applying a set of standards to Africa that will not be applied in wealthier countries is the opposite of climate justice.

If the global energy transition is going to become reality, if we are truly in this climate crisis together, then the priorities of African nations cannot be sidelined. Climate justice must include far greater support for countries with the greatest needs and who contribute the least to global emissions.

It must include investments, not only to mitigate carbon emissions but also to ensure that developing countries can adapt to the impacts of climate change caused by the rich polluting nations. Climate justice must include ending energy poverty. Anything else would be the opposite of justice and a strategic failure for the world.

I’m confident that we can get there at COP27. Egypt will be a crucial moment for African leaders to explain their common position and for Western leaders to show they are hearing us and living up to their commitments and responsibilities.

Egypt can be a turning point for fighting climate change and for ending global poverty. The win-win is there for the world to grasp. We can succeed but only if the needs of developing countries are heard.

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