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Activist holding sign reading, "System change not climate change"

Activists hold a placard during a Fridays for Future protest in Nakuru, Kenya on September 24, 2021. (Photo: James Wakibia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

African Climate Campaigners Demand Clean Energy Revolution, Not IEA's Fossil Fuel Push

"We, as the communities that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, call on our leaders to set their sights on implementing sustainable renewable energy solutions," said one campaigner from Senegal.

Julia Conley

Climate justice campaigners in Africa on Tuesday rebuked the International Energy Agency over a new report that urges nations across the continent to quickly extract and export their natural gas reserves before the world shifts to renewable energy sources.

The IEA's new Africa Energy Outlook 2022, released Monday, notes that countries around the world are gradually shifting toward alternatives to fossil fuels and called on the continent to profit from the 90 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas that it could potentially produce per year until 2030. The report says a full third of that production should be exported to overseas markets.

"This rush for gas and oil has nothing to do with increasing energy access for Africa. It has everything to do with propping up fossil fuel dependent economies of the North."

By extracting gas from reserves recently found in Mozambique, Senegal, Mauritania, Tanzania, and South Africa, the IEA said, the continent could benefit from Europe's push to end Russian gas imports in light of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and could even profit while reducing methane flaring.

"Reducing flaring and venting could quickly make at least 10 bcm of African gas available for export without the development of new supply and transport infrastructure," the report reads.

Critics said the guidance is incongruous with a landmark report released by the IEA just last year, which stated in no uncertain terms that the continued production of fossil fuels by any country or continent has no place on the path to net-zero carbon emissions.

"The IEA is wrong to suggest more fossil gas production is part of a 'sustainable' future in Africa when it has said no new gas beyond 2021 is what is aligned with 1.5°C in the rest of the world," said Thuli Makama, Africa program director for Oil Change International.

Makama accused the Paris-based agency of pushing Africa to become "a fossil fuel shopping mall by northern countries."

"This rush for gas and oil has nothing to do with increasing energy access for Africa," she added. "It has everything to do with propping up fossil fuel dependent economies of the North. Africa and frontline communities will again be left to deal with stranded investments, pollution, and human rights transgressions that are the hallmark of extractivism."

Bronwen Tucker, a researcher at Oil Change International, said the IEA's guidance for Africa "ignores both frontline communities fighting gas and decades of extraction hurting not helping development."

While the IEA report frames continued gas extraction as beneficial for people in African countries, said Landry Ninteretse of 350 Africa, the push "will primarily benefit the fossil fuel industry and western societies seeking to fill the gap left by current shortages from Russia."

A recent report by energy advisory group Meridian Economics showed "that large-scale gas generation projects in the country would push electricity prices up 40%," Glen Tyler-Davies of 350 Africa said, leading countries "down a path of expensive energy, stranded assets, and continued fossil dependence and [delaying] the much needed just transition."

While one-fifth of the world population lives in Africa, less than 3% of the world's energy-related carbon emissions come from the continent and Africa has the lowest emissions per capita than any region in the world.

Meanwhile, "Africans are already disproportionately experiencing the negative effects of climate change, including water stress, reduced food production, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and lower economic growth—all of which are fueling mass migration and regional instability," the IEA acknowledged.

"Rather than engaging in opportunistic and exploitative pursuit of fossil fuels from Africa," said Ninteretse, "developed countries historically responsible for the climate crisis should massively increase their financing of ambitious renewable energy plans that respect the social, economic, and environmental rights of Africans.”

Campaigners noted that there is abundant opportunity in Africa to immediately move toward renewable energy sources and called on leaders to oppose "recent interest by some developed nations to develop gas infrastructure in Africa," including the East African Crude Oil Pipeline—currently under construction in Tanzania and Uganda—and offshore drilling near Senegal.

By the end of the decade the IEA said, four-fifths of Africa's power generation could come from solar, wind, and hydropower as well as geothermal energy.

"We, as the communities that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, call on our leaders to set their sights on implementing sustainable renewable energy solutions," said Daouda Gueye of RAPEN, an anti-fossil fuel network in Senegal. "We strongly oppose the move to lock our country into fossil fuel production and call for funding to be redirected to renewable energy that is not only sustainable but will provide more jobs in the long run."

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