The Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, has asked African governments to ban new fossil fuels extraction and invest in phasing in renewables and set in place an Africa-wide action plan for a just transition.
“Moreover, the Africa Union should step up her Silence the Guns campaign by completely demilitarizing oil field communities, African development and governance,” he said.
The environmental activist stated this in a paper titled ‘African Power Alternatives’ which was based on conclusions from the Energy Leaders’ Summit held earlier in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Bassey said the summit agreed that “although there is an energy deficit on the continent, we cannot ignore the climate impact of fossil energy. Currently 90 percent of the energy investment in Africa goes to fossil fuels.”
“The truth is that we cannot dig up all the coal and drill for more oil and gas, simply because we have them. Although it is true that Africa has contributed least to the climate crisis, the need to bridge the gap should not mean that we should deepen the climate problems,” Bassey said.
He said the power challenge on the continent will be resolved when power belongs to the people and they determine the meaning, content and direction of development, “that will be the real power alternative.”
The summit, according to him, which focused on the essential need for Africa to shift from fossil energy sources and quickly and justly transit to clean energy, also saw the mix of submissions that with regard to climate change, energy is not all about electricity generation or mere access.
“The question was asked that if an estimated 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, how can anyone complain about whether available energy is dirty or clean and whether it is green, blue or black?
“Participants agreed that this was the main argument made by politicians and promoters of dirty energy. This argument provides a broad platform for continued and even increased investment in dirty energy, especially of the fossil fuel type,” he stated.
He stressed that vested economic and political interests were fingered as being major stumbling blocks.
He noted that fossil fuel energy is seen as cheap whereas they are actually highly subsidized and heavily protected, including by the military, saying, the failure to internalise the environmental costs give a false picture of the costs.
“The tragedy of this is that although the cost of renewable energy is falling, the fact is kept away from public discourse. Researchers’ project that renewable energy will be cheaper than power from existing coal plants by 2022,” he said.
He said, though the posture of Africa having a high energy deficit is compelling and quite emotional, it should not be the anchor on which decision on preferred energy sources should be hung.