Tony O. Elumelu
As the world continues to experience the daily impact of global warming, whether it is the recent tragic floods in Pakistan or the less covered, but equally harmful, continuing environmental degradation of the Sahel region in Africa, leaders must act, not just talk.
Likewise, Africa should not just be in the conversation, but actively set the agenda.
Although Africa’s 3.8% contribution to global emissions is insignificant compared to others, we are the region most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Africa’s emphasis on rain-fed agriculture and a large share of agriculture in Africa’s GDP add to the continent’s vulnerability. It is clear that climate change is not only a threat to the future, it is also a threat to the present.
Global conversations on climate change are focused on green and renewable energy. However, Africa’s goal is and must remain to provide energy to its citizens from traditional and green sources – this was the subject of my discussion with Senator John Kerry, former Secretary of State and current Special Envoy of the President of the United States of America for Climate, as well as CEO of Heirs Oil and Gas (HHOG), Osa Igiehon, at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja yesterday.
We have to be realistic about the inequalities that exist between Africa and the rest of the world. Africa has a significant energy deficit, with a significant portion of its population living with little or no electricity. Africa’s full transition to green and renewable energy sources will require huge investments, and this cannot come at the expense of addressing the current energy deficit urgently. The green energy transition should enable Africa to fuel its development and support its economic growth. Anything else will be potentially detrimental to all of us.
There must be a just transition – which is why I welcome the recent recognition by the United States of this concept in its highly anticipated Africa Strategy announced earlier this month.
Africa’s green revolution requires immediate and significant funding – funding beyond the resources available to African governments, which have so many competing priorities such as poverty, economy, education, health, security, etc – all of which have a direct impact on the livelihoods of Africans, especially the youth.
Faced with this dilemma, the world must mobilize! Africa will need much more external support and the same political flexibility that rich countries are demanding for themselves in the energy transition.
As the world gathers in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for COP27, African nations must engage with the rest of the world, with one voice on the massive support required for this transition – support that is frankly in the interest of all. The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s work with UNDP in the Sahel aims to counter the toxic cocktail of lack of opportunity and extremism, and the chilling impact of environmental change has only made this task more difficult.
Africa must do what it can in the present – African governments must provide an enabling environment to promote climate change and incentivize the private sector to take ownership of these initiatives and begin implementation in their various organizations. At Heirs Holdings Group, with our integrated energy strategy, we strive to meet Africa’s energy needs. Our energy strategy has three axes
- an oil and gas route (with HHOG already supplying up to 12 million standard cubic feet of gas per day into the domestic gas hub in eastern Nigeria);
- a gas-fired power generation route (the Transcorp Group operating a total of about 2,000 megawatts, or about 15% of Nigeria’s total installed power generation capacity); and
- a renewable/green energy sector under development.
We cannot afford to ignore traditional energy sources to meet basic needs, but neither can we ignore our responsibility to future generations in developing alternatives.
We are big supporters of young entrepreneurs – and we are working to instill green climate awareness among young African entrepreneurs, through the work of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). We believe that the current and future energy transition is in the hands of our private sector, which, through its actions or inactions, can either perpetuate current ills or catalyze change. Our more than 1.2 million TEF entrepreneurship seed/knowledge recipients are encouraged to build businesses that embed sustainability into their practices.
My conversation with Senator Kerry ended with a broad speech on opportunities for Africa in the area of renewable energy and technology-driven initiatives that will help address and improve energy access in Africa. .
I commend the United States of America for this inclusive approach to addressing climate issues. It is through such direct engagements that a comprehensive program will be developed for faithful implementation across Africa and the rest of the world.
Collectively, we can do better. We must do better. We have a shrinking window to overcome, probably the most important challenge of our time. Our children deserve and expect better.