African nations should advocate for a big increase in fossil fuel production | Africa

Leaders of African countries are likely to use the upcoming UN climate summit in November to push for massive new fossil fuel investments in Africa, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

Further gas exploration and exploitation of Africa’s vast oil reserves would make it nearly impossible for the world to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

However, soaring gas prices have made the prospect of African supplies even more attractive, and developed countries, including EU members, have indicated they would support such developments in the current gas shortage.

The Guardian saw a technical paper prepared by the African Union, comprising most African states, for the “second extraordinary session of the specialized technical committee on transport, transcontinental and interregional infrastructure and the energy committee”, a meeting of energy ministers which took place by videoconference from 14 to 16 June.

The five-page document, along with a 25-page explanation, says many African countries are in favor of a common position that would inform their negotiating position at the UN Cop27 climate summit, scheduled for November in Egypt. , which would involve pushing for an expansion of fossil fuel production across the continent.

The document states: “In the short to medium term, fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, will have to play a crucial role in expanding access to modern energy in addition to accelerating the adoption of renewable energy. .

Member States of the African Union will meet again in Addis Ababa this week to confirm the position to be adopted. They are expected to argue that Africa must be allowed to benefit from its fossil fuel reserves, as rich countries have already done, and that developed countries, on the other hand, must take the initiative to drastically reduce their emissions.

However, environmental activists across the continent fear that exploiting oil and gas in Africa will run counter to global climate goals, hinder the development of renewable energy in Africa and, instead of being used for the benefit of ordinary citizens, enriches multinational corporations, investors and the elite in some countries.

Mohamed Adow, the director of think tank Power Shift Africa, said it would be a mistake for Africa to opt for fossil fuels instead of going straight to renewables. “Africa is endowed with abundant renewable energy, in the sun and the wind. Africa should not be chained to expensive fossil fuels for decades,” he said.

Lorraine Chiponda, Coordinator of the Africa Coal Network, said: “The prospect that African leaders are presenting and pushing for gas development and investment is overwhelming and reckless given the climate impacts that threaten the lives of millions of people in Africa after seeing the droughts worsen. and hunger, recurrent floods and cyclones. Fossil fuel projects have neither solved energy poverty in Africa where 600 million people still live in energy poverty nor brought socio-economic justice to Africans.

The International Energy Agency warned last year that no new fossil fuel development could take place if the world were to remain within 1.5C of pre-industrial levels. Recent extreme weather conditions, including heat waves and wildfires in Europe and North America, have heightened fears that the climate crisis is progressing faster than expected.

African countries are also expected to be among the hardest hit by the impacts of the climate crisis. Drought is already afflicting much of the Horn of Africa today, and millions of people are “walking towards starvation”, the World Food Program has warned.

But soaring gas prices, driven by the war in Ukraine and the recovery from the Covid pandemic, have prompted many countries to see a potential windfall in Africa’s remaining untapped reserves. Research by the Guardian earlier this year revealed dozens of “carbon bombs” – reserves of fossil fuels which, if tapped, could put global climate goals out of reach.

Fatima Ahouli, regional coordinator of Climate Action Network Arab World, said leaders seeking a new exploitation of fossil fuels were contributing to a new form of colonialism.

“The call for more and new exploitation of fossil fuels in Africa is driven by the same starving countries that only see Africa as a gold mine,” she said.

Gas in Africa is set to become one of the hot spots in the COP27 climate talks. The EU has indicated that it will support gas production in Africa, as it urgently seeks new sources of gas following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting threats to gas exports. gas from Russia.

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Mary Robinson, the chair of the Alumni Group of former senior statesmen and business leaders, has also weighed in on the issue, controversially telling the Guardian earlier this year that African countries must be allowed to use their gas, although she insists it must be for domestic use, for electricity and as clean cooking fuel, rather than being exported to the EU.

About 580 million people in Africa still do not have access to electricity and modern energy.

Adow said exploiting gas in Africa would only lock countries into a high-carbon future. He called on rich countries to make funds and support available to poorer countries to switch to renewable energy instead. “There are many opportunities for renewable energy in Africa, but countries need help building the infrastructure.”

The Guardian has approached the African Union for comment.