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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

AU Summit: Leaders urged to pursue fossil-free energy future for continent

As the African Union Summit 36th Ordinary Session kicks off in Ethiopia, civil society organisations (CSOs) across the continent are calling on the African Union to play a more ambitious role towards a fossil-free energy future in Africa.

African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In support of the call, CSOs are circulating to Heads of State and Ministers attending the AU meeting the “Fossil Fuelled Fallacy Report”, which outlines how expanding gas production in Africa would undermine almost every element of development – increasing risks of stranded assets and expensive energy, encouraging foreign ownership of African resources, creating fewer jobs, and harming health and livelihoods across the continent. 

The report – initially launched by Don’t Gas Africa, in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative, at COP27 – makes it clear that the “dash for gas” is nothing more than a shortsighted strategy to profit from the energy crisis, where the fossil fuel industry has misappropriated the language of climate justice in order to legitimise a huge expansion of fossil fuels across Africa.

The AU Summit presents an important opportunity for the continent to expand energy access and accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy. Yet there is a risk the AU Summit will be used to entrench reliance on fossil fuels.

CSOs are particularly concerned about a proposal put forward by energy and infrastructure Ministers for an African “common position” on energy which CSOs have showed

·  Will not address the Committee’s stated aims relating to energy access and transition.

·  Is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s warming limit of 1.5 °C and the existing African Common Position on Climate Change.

·  Risks levels of global heating with catastrophic consequences for Africa; and 

·  Is inconsistent with Africa’s wider development objectives, putting Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals at risk.

With over 300+ CSO signatures from across Africa the letter expressing these concerns received no acknowledgement or response from the African Union with regards to the proposed “common position”. 

The upcoming AU summit provides African leaders with the opportunity to define and set a common narrative that will call for a rapid transition to people-centered, clean, renewable energy for the continent and the whole world. 

Civil society organisations have called on the African Union to reject fossil gas production as a bedrock for Africa’s energy future and to also put an end to fossil-fuel-induced energy apartheid in Africa which has left 600 million Africans without energy access.

Faced with a climate emergency, the CSOs said that it has never been more urgent to shift away from dependence on fossil fuels, and leapfrog towards a renewable energy future that is cleaner, safer, and more economic.

They added that rapid and just transition to renewable energy is a golden opportunity for Africa to reinvigorate its development and achieve its Agenda 2063 vision.

Africa, they stressed, cannot be misled by three false promises of fossil gas: i) jobs, ii) energy access, and iii) renewable transition.

On jobs, gas expansion will not lead to a boom in jobs. According to the “Fossil Fuel Fallacy Report”, jobs in fossil fuel production are estimated to fall by around 75 percent by 2050 in a “well below” 2°C warming scenario, with 80 percent of the employment losses associated with declining upstream fossil fuel production.

On energy access, gas expansion will not increase energy access for the 600 million Africans left without. Gas expansion plans are primarily for export deals with Europe and many will take 10-20 years to come online. These plans ship our energy, and our profits out of Africa while doing nothing for the Africans without energy today.

Renewable investments on the other hand can be brought online in a matter of months and start delivering energy directly to the people this year. Africa has enough wind power potential alone to meet our current electricity demand 250 times over.

On renewable transition, gas expansion is not an investment into a ‘transition fuel’. Rather, gas investments displace investment that could be going directly into distributed, clean, and affordable renewable energy systems. Gas expansion does not help us transition to the future, it simply further locks us into the past. 

African leaders were asked to use the AU Summit to initiate a process of transparent and meaningful dialogue with citizens and policy-makers across the continent to build a shared African energy narrative and an agenda to tackle the interlinked challenges of climate, energy and development.

“Based on these dialogues, the AU should initiate a science- and evidence-based African common position on energy access and transition. This position must break the vicious cycle of energy system dumping, whereby dirty, dangerous, and obsolete fossil fuels and nuclear energy systems no longer wanted in Europe are dumped into Africa in the name of ‘investment and partnership’. Africa must not become a dumping ground for obsolete technologies that continue to pollute and impoverish.

“The adoption of fossil gas as a ‘transition fuel’ by the African Union would lock in both a failure for Africa to uphold the Paris Agreement, as well as near certain exacerbation of climate impacts and catastrophes for its people.”

Rather than doubling-down on the “obsolete and dirty energy systems of the past”, African CSOs are calling on the African Union to move away from harmful fossil fuels towards a transformed energy system that is clean, renewable, democratic, and actually serves its peoples.

“We urge our leaders at the AU summit to reject the misleading false promises of fossil gas expansions, and embrace the renewable future that will bring Africa true hope and prosperity,” they submitted.

Lorraine Chiponda, Coordinator for Africa Climate Movement Building Space, said: “We urge African leaders to co-create a just development path together with African people that is clean, pan-African, and champions people’s regenerative economies away from fossil fuels. We should not allow further colonial and extractive systems to put Africa on a destructive path of fossil fuel extraction.”

Landry Ninteretse, 350Africa.org Regional Director, said: “We’re in a climate emergency that is causing increasingly devastating climate impacts, particularly in Africa where adaptation capacity is still low. African countries cannot bear the world’s challenges on their own.  This calls for urgent action to build resilience to climate challenges through the abandonment of fossil fuels and a just energy transition to renewable energy.

“There is no place for the expansion of fossil gas in the energy transition in Africa, as it would crowd out resources for renewable energy and dull any hopes for the transition. We urge African leaders to reject the push for gas production in Africa and instead galvanise resources from developed nations to support renewable, community-centered, and accessible clean energy systems vital to achieving a just energy transition in the region.”

Courtney Morgan, Campaigner for  African Climate Reality Project, said: “Gas is a bridge to nowhere and will not address energy access challenges on our continent. Decision makers and policy makers should be supporting sustainable solutions; for a fossil free Africa. The Africa we want is one where the energy system is clean and sustainable and brings real access to African people. The neocolonial gas project on our continent will not serve our needs and will exacerbate the climate crisis, we need African led sustainable solutions.”

Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, Campaigns Lead for Don’t Gas Africa: “African land is not a gas station. Millions are losing their homes, don’t have access to food, have their health threatened and are slipping into higher levels of extreme poverty because of the fossil fuel industry.

“Instead of selling away fossil fuel extraction rights to big multinational companies, African leaders should invest in clean, renewable energies that will directly benefit people across the continent without damaging their health.”

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