Activists condemn African leaders against fossil fuel exploration

Thursday August 04 2022

Emmissions coming out from a coal power plant. PHOTO | FILE |


The recent adoption of a proposal that will allow the continued seamless exploration of fossil fuels in Africa by the African Union has dejected a host of environmental activists, who have said the decision thwarts efforts toward net-zero carbon emissions globally.

African Union’s executive council adopted the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition on July 15 2022 allowing Africa to continue to “deploy all forms of its abundant energy resources including renewable and non-renewable energy to address energy demand.”

According to the activists, the proposal, coupled with the European Union’s recent vote in favor of a rule making fossil gas and nuclear projects eligible for low-cost loans and subsidies, could “lock the continent into fossil fuels for decades to come.”

Read: Time for Africa to act with resolve to stem threats of climate change

The lobbyists say that instead of using the upcoming COP27 summit set to be held in Egypt this November to improve the continent’s access to clean energy, the proposal sets the tone for African leaders to engage in talks that will see Africa increase production and use of fossil fuels.

“It would be a shameful betrayal of African people, already on the front line of the climate crisis, if African leaders use this November’s COP27 climate summit on African soil to lock Africa into a fossil fuel-based future,” said Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, a climate lobby group.


Amani Abou-Zeid, AU’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy had, however, stated that the proposal is “an important and major step forward towards ensuring and confirming Africa's right for a differentiated path towards the goal of universal access to energy.”

“I urge stakeholders and potential public and private investors to accept and back it and support the African Union’s various energy security initiatives needed to develop technical and financial instruments and packages to fast-track Africa’s right to universal access to affordable and reliable electricity,” she added.

The lobby groups, on the contrary, are calling for the exploration of Africa’s rich endowment of “high-quality renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal which could benefit its people.”

“At COP27, we call for the African Union and African leaders to announce the utilization of these sources for the benefit of our people and leave aside fossil fuel development for export,” said Dr. Sixbert Mwanga, climate action coordinator at Network Africa.

Also read: Farmers say COP26 didn’t tackle all issues

Meanwhile, a decision by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government last week to auction 30 oil and gas blocks has also sparked uproar amongst environmental activists, who say that will significantly increase carbon emissions.

DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi said the launching of the tendering process “speaks to our desire to put our resource potential at the service of our country,” adding that fossil fuel production will boost the country’s development.

But environmental activists said drilling in the designated areas would inevitably have steep consequences since several of the proposed oil blocks overlap with peatlands, swampy areas that hold billions of tonnes of carbon.