Decarbonising the energy sector
Now is the time for a just transition from a dirty energy era to renewable solutions which respect the rights and livelihoods of local communities, in which everyone can take part, and from which everyone can benefit.
Addressing electricity poverty and a rising demand for energy
Decarbonising Africa’s development pathways will require delinking economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts, also referred to as ‘decoupling’. Human well-being and its improvement is based upon the availability of natural resources such as energy, materials, water and land. While economic development and population growth have led to a substantial increase in the use of natural resources, many of these are becoming less abundant and may even become critically scarce in the future. Put simply, it means we are unlikely to have sufficient natural resources to allow for all Africans to improve their lives if we keep using them at the same rate we have been using them. The dilemma of expanding economic activities while reducing the rate of resource use and reducing the environmental impact of any such use poses a serious challenge to society.
African countries need to find ways to reduce to the amount of resources such as material (including fossil fuels), energy, water and land used to produce economic growth while decreasing environmental deterioration (less groundwater pollution, wastes and greenhouse gas emissions).
Read here the ACRP’s position on Africa’s decarbonised development.
Time for action!
In Africa, the movement is slowly gaining momentum, with a particularly strong base in South Africa. The Fossil Free South Africa campaign started in 2013 with a call on the University of Cape Town (UCT) to divest. Now UCT is on track to become the first African University to formally commit to divesting from fossil fuels. The Fossil Free campaign coordinated by 350 Africa is also targeting South African banks whose investments play a crucial role in financing Africa’s growing addiction to fossil fuels, the biggest emitters of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions that drive global climate change. And in September 2016, the Anglican Churches of Southern Africa voted to divest from fossil fuels.
Leapfrogging to renewable energy
African countries that lag behind in terms of electricity infrastructure experience less path dependency to ‘conventional’ technologies. It is therefore easier for them to adopt directly new, clean energy sources, especially as these technologies have already achieved a stage where they are at least as cost-effective as other energy sources – if not already cheaper. Besides the cost incentive, the set-up and operational flexibility of renewable energy technologies such as wind or solar make them best suited to improve access to electricity in both urban and rural areas on the African continent.