Civil society calls on African Union to foster fossil-free future

February 23, 2023
Don't Gas Africa
A protest during Africa Energy Week 2022.

As diplomats and political leaders headed to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for an African Union (AU) summit, civil society groups from the continent argued on February 17 that "rather than doubling down on the obsolete and dirty energy systems", the AU must "move away from harmful fossil fuels towards a transformed energy system that is clean, renewable, democratic, and actually serves its peoples".

African groups also circulated at the AU summit The Fossil Fuelled Fallacy report, which was launched by Don't Gas Africa, in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative, at COP27 — the United Nations climate conference hosted by Egypt in November that critics called "another terrible failure" because attendees refused to agree to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

The report asserts that "Africa has a monumental opportunity to pursue sustainable socioeconomic development without relying on fossil fuels", pushing back against arguments made by some world leaders, industry, and a 2022 International Energy Agency (IEA) publication that African nations should quickly extract and export their natural gas reserves.

"The Africa we want is one where the energy system is clean and sustainable and brings real access to African people."

"The idea that gas will bring prosperity and opportunities to Africans is a tired and overused fallacy, promulgated by those that stand to benefit the most: multinational fossil fuel firms and the elite politicians that aid and abet them," the report states. "It is a huge gamble to pursue these gas projects throughout Africa in the hope that they will bring development, wealth, and industry. It is highly likely that they will not and, instead, will burden African governments and citizens with vast debts, stranded assets, environmental degradation, and more broken promises."

Activists including Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, campaigns lead for Don't Gas Africa, echoed those messages, declaring that “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."

African Climate Reality Project campaigner Courtney Morgan similarly warned that "gas is a bridge to nowhere and will not address energy access challenges on our continent. Decision-makers and policymakers 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," Morgan stressed. "The neocolonial gas project on our continent will not serve our needs and will exacerbate the climate crisis, we need African-led sustainable solutions."

Africa Climate Movements Building Spaces coordinator Lorraine Chiponda agreed that "we should not allow further colonial and extractive systems to put Africa on a destructive path," and called on the continent's 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."

Their demands aligned with calls from campaigners who, over the past year, blasted the IEA report, condemned African leaders' plan for new dirty energy development, protested during Africa Energy Week, and warned about the impacts of projects by the United States and other rich nations that have largely caused the global climate emergency.

"We're in a climate emergency that is causing increasingly devastating climate impacts, particularly in Africa where adaptation capacity is still low," regional director Landry Ninteretse said. "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," Ninteretse said. "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."

[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]

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