African leaders ‘plead poverty’ at COP27

World Leaders met in Egypt at COP27 to discuss climate change

By Bahle Gama

As the world pushes for a reduction in greenhouse gases and calls for cleaner ways to generate energy, African countries are pleading poverty regarding making the transition.

World leaders are gathered in Egypt where the 27th United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) is underway to discuss ways of improving energy generation globally.

At least 12 African countries are joining forces to seek $18 billion in funding to initiate the construction of 8.4 gigawatts of renewable energy sources. The task of making the plea with cap in hand on behalf of the 12 states was handed to Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who presented the energy transition proposal. Bloomberg reported that “under the proposal, a bloc of 12 countries in the region would increase generation by about 8.4 gigawatts from sources such as solar and wind.”

The twelve countries, which include South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, and Zambia, currently rely mainly on coal to generate electricity. Their power grids are connected under an initiative called the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). It is reported that currently, 62 percent of the electricity in the SAPP, which is a cooperation of the national electricity companies in Southern Africa under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is generated from coal.

“Powering the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) with renewables is about developing while decarbonizing. These two ambitions are not in contradiction. If Sub-Saharan Africa aggressively promotes renewables, it could obtain a 27 percent reduction in carbon emissions. This is not a small amount, given that our population and economic growth will at some point lead to our emission levels becoming no longer immaterial,” she said.

Hassan called on investors and international partners to view and assess the regional power block as it promotes the stability and size of the SAPP electricity market as leverage for cheap financing for the power projects. She added that the preparation of renewable projects was costly, calling on African countries to mobilize resources first for the preparation of all renewable projects in the region.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation echoed African leaders’ call for countries to rapidly scale-up finance for climate adaptation and further pledged to invest E178 billion ($1.4 billion) to help smallholder farmers address the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change.

This follows shortly after the Minister of Tourism and Environment Moses Vilakati stating that funds towards climate change, especially towards African countries, needed to be increased which he said he hoped would be addressed during COP27.
The minister had disclosed that of the about E1.7 trillion ($100 billion) pledged towards climate change during the COP15, Eswatini had only received about E100 million in that duration which he deemed as a drop in the ocean, “considering that despite contributing less than one per cent
of gas emissions worldwide, the country suffers the same effects.”

On November 7, the Gates Foundation’s CEO Mark Suzman made the announcement and stated that for many regions, climate change is a food and economic crisis without precedent, with more than two billion people dependent on smallholder farms for food and income, yet less than
two per cent of global climate finance is devoted to helping these farms adapt to climate change.

He further stated that the food and economic crisis will last longer and become more severe as climate threats escalate and further threaten food security by limiting smallholder farmers’ yields and resilience.

“The effects of climate change have already been devastating and every moment the world delays action, more people suffer, and the solutions become more complex and costly. Our commitment will help smallholder farmers adapt today and build resilience for the future and it is essential for this climate summit to produce bold commitments that address immediate and long-term needs,” said Suzman.

He urged leaders to listen to the voices of African farmers and their governments to understand their priorities and respond with urgency.
He added that the foundation’s commitment will fund immediate action and long-term initiatives over four years to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and intends to work with the International Fund of Agriculture (IFAD) to build resilience and food security. Two European giants, France and Germany also announced they would be granting loans of over E106 billion towards South Africa’s transition from coal. The announcement followed the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that they would be reducing resilience on coal by transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

Ramaphosa said more climate funding was needed and it had to come in the form of grants and concessional loans to avoid Africa ramping up debt. He said multilateral development banks needed to change their approach to climate finance. The loans will be provided by the French and German public development banks, Agence Française de Dévelopement (AFD), and KfW Development Bank directly to the SA government via its National Treasury.

The financing agreements were acknowledged by Ramaphosa, President of France Emmanuel Macron, and the Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz at COP27. The signing is said to represent a significant milestone in the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) which is a long-term partnership between SA, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union announced at COP26 in November 2021.

This being the first initiative of its kind, the JETP is said to aspire in supporting SA in accelerating its journey to a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society. In 2021, the founding partner of the JETP also known as the International Partners Group reportedly pledged to mobilize an initial amount of over E105 billion ($8.5 billion) over the next three to five years to advance the partnership.

South Africa is one of the countries that continue to depend on coal to produce most of its electricity and the coal sector remains significant to the country’s national economy and the livelihood of several communities. The move has however not been welcomed by all. Many have viewed Ramaphosa’s acceptance of the loan as ‘selling’ the country to the West. The African Energy Chamber has hit out at the continent’s leaders, saying when Africans look at the green agenda from Western countries, they see something written by extreme forces that do not factor in their concerns, especially around natural gas and energy poverty.

“No thanks. Africa doesn’t need a radical energy transition; Africa needs a just energy transition. We don’t want to abandon our fossil fuels and find ourselves in the same situation Europe is in today. Africans know what it means to have no energy. We need a healthy balance of energy sources. Humanity’s history is full of energy transitions. We move on to more efficient energy sources over time. The transition to renewable energy will happen,” the organisation said.

The organisation added that climate panic, smears and fear-mongering were being punted, with Africa becoming public enemy number one.

“A continent that emits a negligible amount of carbon dioxide, at most, 3.0 per cent of the world’s total, is being disproportionately pegged as a threat to the planet by developed nations.”

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