Divesting from fossil fuels is the obvious direction the world is headed. Many powerful countries which dominate the world economy have been actively working on that. The United States and Europe are headed in that direction. As the technology for non-fossils are improved, this trend will become the dominant source of energy in the world.
In the specific case of the African continent, I often wonder if for instance the Germans relocate here, whether they would not build their energy supply around the most abundant source of energy, which is the solar. I often wonder if the African search for development and better living for her people should not be based on resources that are more in abundance and not those less available, and therefore reduce Africa’s dependency. Where for instance what is abundant is the wind, then that should be in the front burner as source of energy. We should be in the fore front of dependency on solar energy, because Africa is richly endowed in that respect. Sadly that is not the case.
I do not expect a global decision not to exploit fossil fuels, but I expect technology and economic factors to reduce the importance of fossils in global energy milieu. Nigeria is a classic example of a country that will be losing foreign exchange as crude oil exports decline and as her major customers seek other sources for their energy needs. But that should not be a surprise to Nigeria and countries in similar circumstance. President Obama made it explicit that a key goal of his tenure is to reduce United States’ dependency on imported crude petroleum, I am not sure our rulers were listening. As Nigeria’s earnings from crude petroleum exports decline, I expect difficult public sector finances, constrained ability to meet domestic and local financial obligations including recurrent expenditures, and then infrastructural development. The local currencies will be devalued and I expect inflation, layoffs and increased unemployment, which will worsen social crises and conflicts as well as other related security challenges. If the trend in the international oil market continues, Nigeria will face very challenging times. Sadly the political and social elite seem to live, oblivious of this. As with the boom period when we failed to save for the turn of events, reality still seems far away waiting for some shocks to bring the country to that realisation.
Some people could imagine that developing countries can be asked not to exploit fossils, but that will not happen. In international trade and politics, fairness is not a key factor. What is important is the interest of the various contending forces at play. Ultimately it is the trend of the development in technology and economics that will determine what happens. Coal is not as important as it was some years ago. That did not emerge by any political force, but technology and economics dealt with coal. So will it be, with other fossils.
The issue of fossil fuels remaining unexploited in less developed countries (even when the developed countries exploited that for their advancement, and hence drove the world into sever climate change), in order to avoid dangerous climate change was among the issues that drew heated debates during the Conference of Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru last year. Ahead of COP21 in Paris later this year, Nigeria is preparing to navigate this and similar issues. Nigeria has just set up a team to prepare her position for COP 21. That is a good way to go. However, by the structure and conduct of the COPs, Nigeria’s position will ultimately be aligned to the position of the African Group. Some weeks ago in Cairo Egypt, the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) held. The details of Africa’s position are still being worked on and the picture will get clearer before the meeting in Paris later in the year. But be sure that the COP this year has been programmed to be an important milestone, in the light of what is to become of the Kyoto protocol that has driven most of what has happened in the last decades.
By Chinedum Nwajiuba
1. Professor of Agricultural Economics (Resource and Environmental Economics) and Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, Imo State University Owerri, Nigeria.
- Executive Director, Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team, Ibadan, Nigeria.
- Project Coordinator, Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change (BNRCC), which partnered with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment in producing the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change in Nigeria (NASAP-CCN), commended by the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) as among the model documents which other countries may learn from.
- Served in Nigeria’s Team of Negotiators to the UNFCC Conference of Parties (COP).)