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In some of the poorest countries in Africa, the choice is between dirty power or no power. While the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Zimbabwe is scolded by Western ideologues, developing nations are calling on richer nations that consume more electricity to do more to reduce their emissions and help poorer ones achieve their goals. of green energy.
At the climate summit organized by US President Joe Biden last month, the world’s leading carbon emitters pledged to step up their emissions cuts within the next decade and to rapidly phase out fossil fuels such as coal. However, some of Africa’s largest economies have committed themselves, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative is helping them fund a green energy conversion.
Leaders from 40 nations attended the remotely hosted Biden Summit on April 22, which included the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa from the African continent. At the summit, they pledged to reduce carbon emissions, but stressed that developing countries, previously colonized by European powers, would need international help if they were to do more than modest reductions.
Overall, according to Africa News, Africa plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 32% by 2030.
“We call on the developed economies that historically have the greatest responsibility for emissions to meet their responsibilities to developing economies,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the conference. “This will be key to restoring the bonds of trust between developed and developing economies.”
© REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a press conference following a meeting with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, in Pretoria, South Africa, 3 October 2019
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari outlined two potential goals: one if the continent’s largest economy received international aid and another if it was forced to go alone.
“In addition to ending gas flaring by 2030, the oil and gas sector has undertaken measures for diversification, risk management systems, research (indistinct) and insurance development and crisis planning of the energy framework. Buhari said, stressing that the “reduce emissions by 20 percent unconditionally and by 45 percent conditionally with international support by 2030”.
Buhair’s comments mirror those made by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the conference, which called on developed nations to “fully acknowledge the contribution of developing countries to climate action and to embrace their particular difficulties and concerns” .
Xi said developed nations should do more to combat climate change than developing nations because they have done more to cause climate change. Poorer nations, many of which are former colonies occupying some kind of neocolonial dependency relationship with their former colonizers, will require special help to acquire funding and technology, which richer nations should provide and encourage to spread.
Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi stressed the importance attached to Central African forests by other conference members. He stressed that since his country is tasked with protecting these vital forests and the colossal peatlands recently discovered in the Congo River Basin, his country could only fund the fight against climate change if the carbon credit system was completely revised. to compensate them adequately.
“Achieving carbon neutrality will not be possible without taking forest conservation and regeneration into account, but the current price of forest carbon, at $ 5 per ton, is neither fair nor realistic,” said Tshisekedi. which incorporates discounted opportunities should be at least $ 100 per tonne. “
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the East African nation will cut emissions by 32% by 2030 and will also present a strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this November. He noted that “clean energy already accounts for around 90% of Kenya’s total electricity supply and we intend to increase it to 100% by 2030”.
Difficult decisions surround coal
Left to fend for themselves, the many African countries whose economies heavily depend on dirty fossil fuel energy or fossil fuel export to European nations can only cut emissions by 10% by 2030, according to a recent study. by Oxford researchers published in Nature. The continent together currently generates around 80% of its electricity from fossil fuels.
In a poor country like Zimbabwe, the choice so far has been between coal and not power. China came under heavy criticism last year after a plan was put forward to build a $ 3 billion coal-fired power plant in the northern Zimbabwe city of Sengwa. The plant, a joint venture between Zimbabwe’s RioZim and a consortium of Chinese state-owned enterprises led by Gezhouba Group, will produce 2,800 megawatts of electricity in a country that currently produces only 1,300 megawatts per day nationwide. With a daily requirement of 2,200 megawatts, that leaves large portions of the day when electricity is turned off in the nation of 14.6 million.
© AP Photo / Branden Camp
Scherer Coal Plant, one of the nation’s major carbon emitters, is located in the distance in Juliette, Georgia
Alongside the so-called “debt trap diplomacy”, Chinese investments in African nations’ infrastructure have come under attack as they aggravate climate change. Chinese companies have invested in the construction of eight coal-fired plants in South Africa in addition to the Sengwa project. China is also heavily reliant on coal-fired energy at home, and Xi raised eyebrows at the conference when he predicted that China’s carbon emissions would only peak in 2030 and that Beijing would continue to fund construction of new power plants in China. coal for the next five years although it acts to reduce the pace of that increase.
China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, a point Biden has never hesitated to make. But a better comparison point than raw carbon tonnage is per capita emissions, which show the intensity of the population’s energy use. Under this measure, it is clear that the United States produces more than twice as much as China does than the Chinese average closest to the European Union. However, according to 2018 statistics, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Kazakhstan are ahead of the United States. No African nation ranks in the top 20.
Investments in Beijing’s Green Africa
However, less talk about investment than China’s investment in fossil fuels in Africa is its clean energy. China is by far the largest investor in wind energy in the world and some of its biggest projects have been in Africa. It also helps finance the continent’s largest hydroelectric dams.
In December 2019, Kenya launched a 50 megawatt solar park in the northeastern region of Garissa, one of the largest on the continent. The project was carried out by the Rural Energy Authority of Kenya and the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Co-operation (CJIC). According to Xinhua, the project provides energy to 350,000 people.
From Aar Wind Farm Northern Cape South Africa
Another major project was the De Aar wind farm in South Africa, built by Longyuan South Africa Renewables of China Longyuan Power Group Corporation Limited, a subsidiary of China Energy Investment Corporation (China Energy). Completed in 2017, the De Aar wind farm is meeting the energy needs of 300,000 households in the Northern Cape, the equivalent of burning 215,800 tons of coal.
The huge Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River in Ethiopia has long been debated between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt due to its impact on the flow downstream of the river, but once completed it is expected to be the largest hydroelectric power plant in the mainland, producing 6,000 megawatts of electricity. It will be built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Also in Nigeria, the massive Mambilla hydroelectric project in Taraba state will produce 3,050 megawatts of power when completed in 2030. The mega-dam project is mainly funded by China’s Export-Import bank and built by a Chinese state consortium. owned construction company led by Gezhouba Group.