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Access to cleaner energy solutions while maintaining economic growth will be a top priority for African countries in the upcoming United Nations climate conference in November, according to top officials and climate experts on the continent. However, some experts argue that raising living standards will force Africa to temporarily increase its production of fossil fuels.
The African Union (AU) wants to increase access to electricity and clean cooking solutions for hundreds of millions of people a part of Africa’s goal of ‘just transition’, ensuring fair and inclusive buildout of clean energy.
Harsen Nyambe, the Director of Sustainable Environment and Blue Economy at the African Union, said that Africa needs more time and financial resources for its transition to clean energy and achieve socio-economic growth objectives. He emphasized the need to be “realistic” about the goals for the continent which is already dealing with the effects of climate change and is trying to develop infrastructure with fewer resources.
Nyambe highlighted that it may take up many years after 2050 for the entire African continent to transition away from fossil fuels, considering Africa’s lack of financing and growing infrastructure needs. Getting the right and adequate financial support at the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP 27) can help accelerate Africa’s transition to cleaner energy.
The African Union has specified natural gas as a “transition fuel” for Africa’s growing energy needs, alongside renewables and green hydrogen. Although some experts argued whether gas should be used in a move toward cleaner sources since they believe that building up gas infrastructure may slow efforts to develop renewable energy facilities.
Some of the larger economies in Africa have already invested heavily in renewable energy megaprojects like the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station in Morocco, Kom Ombo Solar Plant in Egypt, Menengai Geothermal Plant and Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya, and the Jasper Solar Plant in South Africa.
Linus Mofor, a senior environmental affairs advisor at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said the continent is embracing a cleaner energy future but will do so based on its needs and circumstances. He also added that Africa will require $2 trillion by 2030 to address its energy transformation.