Africa is a potential low-carbon superpower and can show the world how to fight poverty, grow economies and fight climate change at the same time. It is a crucial message for 2015, when critical climate talks will set the future direction of the world’s weather and world leaders commit to achieving sustainable development goals.
Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel today (5 Jun) issues its report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities. It calls on governments, private investors, and international financial institutions to unlock the Africa’s vast potential for renewable and a low-carbon energy and fight poverty by delivering universal access to electricity by 2030. The report is available for download here.
The report says Africa does not have to choose between economic growth and low-carbon energy development. Just as the continent leapfrogged decades of telecoms development with cheap rollout of mobile telephony, Africa has the sun, wind, water and geothermal resources to fire up energy without damaging the world climate.
Power against poverty
Many Africans cannot escape poverty because 621 million of them do not have access to electricity and they pay a heavy price in resources, time and environmental decline for energy such as firewood, which they use for lighting and cooking. A rural woman in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times more per unit of energy consumed than a resident of New York or London.
“Our report calls for a 10-fold increase in power generation by 2030,” said Mr Annan, adding: “Africa needs to utilize all of its energy assets in the short-term while seizing the opportunity to put in place the foundations for a competitive, low-carbon energy infrastructure.”
The Africa Progress Panel report highlights the scale of Africa’s energy deficits. Power shortages cut the region’s growth by 2-4 per cent a year, holding back job creation.
Electricity consumption in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) is less than that of Spain. On current trends it will take until 2080 for every African to have access to electricity. The APP report identifies Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa as emerging front-runner countries in the global transition to low-carbon energy.
There is a $10 billion-a-year opportunity in tackling deficits and the report authors estimate that households living on less than US$2.50 a day collectively spend this amount on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles and torches.
“This is market failure on an epic scale. Low-cost renewable technologies could slash the cost of energy, benefiting millions of poor households, creating investment opportunities, and cutting carbon emissions,” said Mr Annan. “African governments should take responsibility for tackling corruption in energy utilities, strengthening energy governance to facilitate private investments, and increasing investment in energy infrastructure.”
The report urges African governments to redirect the US$21 billion spent on subsidies for loss-making utilities and electricity consumption for the rich, towards connection subsidies and renewable energy investments geared towards the poor.
It estimates the energy-sector financing gap will be US$55 billion each year until 2030. The panel members call for strengthened international cooperation and a global connectivity fund to reach an additional 600 million Africans by unlocking private investment and expanding public investment in on-grid and off-grid energy provision. Aid donors and financial institutions can do more to unlock private investment through risk guarantees and mitigation finance.
Time to end “climate negotiations poker”
Africa brings a message of hope for December’s climate talks, set for Paris. The world’s leaders must commit and act to implement agreements to cut emissions and limit global average temperature increase to 2OC above pre-industrial levels. Africa contributes the least to man-made climate change and already endures the worst effects such as droughts, floods, falling crop yields and rising temperatures. A bigger increase would mean these changes could spiral out of control within a few years.
The African Progress Panel report challenges African governments and the international community to scale-up the level of ambition ahead of the summit. It recognizes that the EU, the US and China have raised their levels of ambition but says current proposals fall far short of a credible deal for keeping global warming within the 2ºC limit. It condemns Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan for effectively withdrawing from constructive engagement of climate.
APP member Bob Geldof contrasted the “comfort blanket mood music” surrounding the Paris climate summit with current policies: “G7 and G20 governments tell us they want a climate deal. Yet the same governments – the UK, the United States, Germany, China, Brazil and India – are spending billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money subsidizing the discovery of new coal, oil and gas reserves. They should be pricing carbon out of the market through taxation, not subsiding a climate catastrophe that threatens the lives of millions of Africans and jeopardizes our children’s future.”
“This is a moment for bold global leadership and decisive action by governments around the world,” said Mr Annan. “Playing poker with our planetary and the lives of future generations is not a smart move.”