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Calls for a just energy transition in Africa carry echoes of elite panic

Maki Sal, Senegalese president and chairman of the African Union, speaks on behalf of more poor countries when he says: “We will not accept that polluting countries, responsible for the state of the earth, will tell us that we are not going to fund more fossils. Fuels. “

Sal’s argument, increasingly recognized among the leaders of poorer countries sitting on large oil or gas reserves, is essentially that the countries left behind by the rapid industrialization of the richer world should be allowed to exploit their fossil fuels. Telling them not to do this, or denying them funding, is disgusting.

54 African countries, with about one-fifth of the world’s population, are responsible for 2 to 3% of the cumulative carbon emissions from energy and industry sources, according to World Resource Institute. It goes down even lower if low-carbon South Africa is not included.

Poor countries in Africa and elsewhere have missed out on the magic of the industrial revolution fueled by fossil fuels, which, one after another, has brought richer countries out of poorer countries. And although poorer countries have contributed almost nothing to the climate crisis, they will be most affected by changing weather patterns. Now they are told they missed the boat.

Western governments, private banks and well-intentioned ESG investors, in fact, say: We are terribly sorry, but for the good of the planet, poor countries must leave their fossil fuels in the ground. Instead, they were told to use the sun and wind to propel their dreams.

African leaders rightly call for time on this hypocrisy. Wealthy countries have put the world in a climatic mess, they say, and their job is to get the world out of it. If that means they must turn to negative carbon to allow poor countries to do some carbon overcoming, then so be it.

They must also pay for technology that will help countries switch to new forms of energy like hydrogen and new reduction efforts like carbon capture. After all, rich countries have been pushing coal and consuming oil for decades.

This argument is true as it is. But it can not go unchallenged. The days of Osinabahu, Nigeria’s vice president and another staunch supporter of the “it’s our turn to pollute” argument, pointed out that almost half of Nigeria’s 210 million have no access to electricity. The country still has a nominal per capita income of only $ 2,400 and a life expectancy of 55. Nigeria needs more time, he says, to use its oil and gas to bring light and prosperity to its people.

But Nigeria had 60 years to do just that. It began serious oil production in 1960 and has been producing 2 million barrels or about for decades. However, almost all of this oil goes out to rich countries, which burned it and profited as a result. The bulk of the profits – rent, as economists call it – went to Nigerian elites who controlled access to the multinational resources and oil companies that persuaded them to part with it.

The same is true of other oil-producing countries whose governments have failed to turn oil into prosperity. Angola, with 32 million people but similar reserves, has wasted even more oil wealth per capita than Nigeria – no small feat. Mozambique has quantities of offshore gas in the proportion of Qatar, but there is almost no credible plan to turn this wealth into sustainable benefits for its poor residents.

“Despite all the talk that energy exports will make us rich, I refer you to Equatorial Guinea,” says James Mwangi, CEO of the Delberg Group consulting firm, pointing to another country whose ruling class has floated in its pockets while most of its members. People remain poor.

Certainly, if you listen well enough to talk about a fair transition, you will almost notice the voice of the elites who are terrified that their rentals will prevent them. From Wangi Claims That poor countries can do much more to profit from the opportunities that the global push has brought to net zero.

For the just transition to land argument, countries like Nigeria must change what they use hydrocarbons for. Instead of igniting gas, as they have done in huge quantities for decades, they need to flow it to shore and turn it into power for homes and industry. Eliko Dangota, Nigeria’s senior businessman, has finally opened a plant on the outskirts of Lagos to turn gas into fertilizer – this is a no-brainer and should have been done decades ago.

If states claim a fair transition, it should benefit most of their people through electricity, electricity and industrial change. Everything else is just hot air.

david.pilling@ft.com

Calls for a just energy transition in Africa carry echoes of elite panic Source link Calls for a just energy transition in Africa carry echoes of elite panic

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