A just transition to 100% renewable is possible

That the African continent is suffering from poly crises is no longer news. But of importance at this United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP28 is the climate crisis confronting the continent.

As a result, Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA) in partnership with Climate Action Network Africa (CAN-Africa) , Africa Coal Network (ACN), Hands of Mother Earth (HOME ) Africa working group against Geoengineering and Environmental Rights Action hosted a side event to review the path to a just transition to 100% renewable energy for Africa.

The event observed that the grave climate change impacts faced by the peoples of the global south especially the African continent  that ranges from floods, cyclones, drought, water shortages, desertification, sea level rise, the irreparable and irreplaceable losses and damages and the other  indirect impacts such as crude oil spills that have ravaged many communities across Africa, to communal conflicts, and landgrabbing is necessitating this conversation.

Affirming the above, the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC)  have said that if these crisis especially climate crisis is to stop  and if we are to limit global average temperature to below 1.5oC above pre industrial levels, we must leave all known fossil fuels underground, phase out not phase down all fossil fuel while transiting equitably, radically and Justly to a new form of energy- clean renewable energy with a shift from the current system of exploitation – hence our quest for system change nor climate change.

In the words of United Nations Secretary general Antonio Guterres on the first day of COP28, – “the world is unequal and divided, bombs are sounding again in Gaza, and climate chaos is fanning the flames of injustice, global heating is bursting budgets, ballooning food prices and upending energy markets and feeding a cost of living crisis, but climate action can flip the switch. We need to be Accelerating a just and equitable transition to renewables. The science is clear; the 1.5°C target is achievable only if we stop the burning of all fossil fuels, a phase out is needed, not reduce, not abate but a phase-out with a clear time frame aligned with 1.5°C. Climate justice is long overdue; developing countries are devastated by disasters they did not cause, extortionate borrowing costs are blocking their national climate action plans and support for developing countries is far too little and far too late. “

Sharing their experiences on a way out of the climate crisis, activists from different parts of Africa spoke up and affirmed that it is urgent for the world to brace up and transition swiftly from dirty energy to renewable energy.

Leading the conversation, Marina Agortimevor, coordinator of ACN stated that if there are barriers to a just transition it means there are opportunities for Africa to engage in other ways to overcome those barriers.

For example, there are about 600 million people, Africans who lack access to electricity –  this is an opportunity for Africa considering the huge renewable energy potential of the continent.

Marina pointed out some of the barriers that ACN has identified as possible hindrances to the desired transition to 100% clean renewables as poor access to finance to speed up the transition. She also acknowledged the recently operationalized Loss and Damage Funds here at COP28, and hopes that these funds will be easily accessible by those who need it and will help to reduce this identified gap.

As a trained engineer with hands-on experience of renewable energy, especially solar systems , she raised the need for technology and Knowledge transfer gap to and for Africans  to be filled. When this identified gap is filled, we would not be an extraction pot nor would we be a consumer hub but a major player in how we produce energy for Africans and by Africans, she said.

Taking the conversation further Safiatou Nana , regional coordinator of CAN-Africa , spoke on the needs for this transition to embrace a decentralised off grid system which would put management of the energy in the hands of the communities who need and use them. She further emphasised that the transition should consider the cultural context of the over 600 million African peoples who lack access to electricity, and the proper reskilling of workers as important considerations in this process. Collaborations by communities, Civil society organizations and the government, and a good legal framework Nana reiterated would be a boost to the move to 100% renewables.

On his part the Host of the event , Ubrei – Joe Maimoni, the climate Justice and energy lead for FoEA who also doubles as a programme manager for Environmental Rights Action highlighted that without a clearly spelt out policy framework whose goal is  measureable, people centred and serve the purpose of the continent with the appropriate budgetary allocations and government support in the form of good political will and transfer of subsidies from the polluting fossil fuels industry to renewables will still be a high hanging fruit process.

He said that we should not allow this transition to be a renewal of energy colonization, and that Africans must be at the center of the pathways to 100% renewables.

There is word out here in Dubai that a decision to triple renewable pledges so we can meet the 100% renewables energy target  will be made at this COP28, which posed a question to the peoples in the room , will this pledge light up Africa ? Will it make us another pot of extractions? Or make us a powerhouse of renewable energy tech production?  Will this keep us in the loop of consumption and extraction ?

Or will this move us to tech self reliance and equitably just mineral extraction usage?

Josué ARUNA executive director of Congo Basin Conservation Society CBCS network DRC responded to some of the questions raised above, he said aside DRC being a hub where many of the minerals ( now referred to as critical/ strategic/ transition minerals) required for the transition to 100% renewable energy, the government of his country is also been giving out oil blocs to different companies on biodiversity protected zones.

This Josue said is increasing communal clashes, destruction of the ecosystem while the funds being generated is not imparting positively the lives of the people.

The session also examined Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which opens up a window for the adoption of several carbon market schemes and solutions that includes Nature Based Solutions, and several Geoengineering schemes. The panelists emphasized that any solution that does not or will not lead to the cut of emissions at source or keep global average temperatures below the 1.5 o C threshold , lead to massive landgrabbing , colonization of our waters should not be promoted or advanced.

The existing climate change requires a rapid, equitable , just and fair transition to 100% renewables if the world would stay safe from global burning especially Africa and the global south. The time to act is now.

For more information contact :

Babawale obayanju

Communications coordinator

Friends of the Earth Africa.