AFRICAN countries should fund a facility to tackle climate change on the continent, Kenya has suggested. At the Africa Regional Forum on Climate Technology in Nairobi earlier this month, Charles Mutai, Director of Climate Change at Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, presented the case for the fund, adding that Kenya was preparing relevant legislation to expand science, technology and innovation in the country.
‘The increased climate change vulnerability causes huge burdens in the continent hence the need for homegrown funding mechanism,’ Mutai said. He added that the funding would enable the development, deployment and transfer of locally relevant climate and clean energy technologies on the continent.
The use of technology to reduce emissions while helping to provide electricity for millions who lack it will be uppermost in the minds of African delegations at this week’s World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington. These countries are expected to take a strong stand on the provision of energy to aid their development.
With the World Bank having acknowledged that access to energy is essential to reducing poverty, with 1.6 billion people globally (645 million of whom are in Africa) lacking access to electricity, developing countries are pushing for the Bretton Wood Institution to change its position on not officially funding coal-fired power stations.
The World Bank took this decision in 2013, but when Donald Trump became president of the US last year he encouraged multilateral development banks to change their position on not financing coal production for energy.
The problem has been with climate change activists who are opposed to the production of coal to provide electricity because of what they argue is the threat from carbon emissions.
But the World Bank notes: ‘Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy (Sustainable Development Goal 7) is essential to end poverty, reach other UN [SDGs] and critical for many countries to meet their climate change mitigation targets.
‘Bold policy commitments, innovative technology and increased private investments can help them get there.’
Developing countries are arguing that advances in technology have made coal production cleaner through carbon capture and storage (CCS).
With calls for growing restrictions on the use of fossil fuels for providing electricity, the world will only reach 92 per cent electrification by 2030, according to World Bank figures.
The Bank said that such a situation would leave ‘many in the dark and unable to seize economic and social opportunities that can help them lead better lives.’
The Bank said on its website that its ‘engagement in the energy sector is designed to help client countries secure the affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy supply needed to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.’
It added: ‘This requires a concerted push on sustainable options for energy access, including solar and wind, on-grid and off-grid, as well as other viable, low-carbon solutions that reflect every country’s unique circumstances.
‘The World Bank is working with a number of client countries on these fronts and to attract increased private sector participation and investment in the sector.’
After the World Bank imposed its sanctions on coal funding, a report last year by the Bank Information Centre (BIC), a Washington-based pressure group, revealed that the World Bank’s Development Policy Financing programmes continued to subsidise coal, oil and gas projects.
Nezir Sinani, Europe and Central Asia Manager at the BIC, said the World Bank was ‘introducing tax breaks for coal power plants and coal export infrastructure.’
But a World Bank statement said that the BIC report ‘grossly misrepresents the World Bank’s engagement in these countries.’
It added: ‘The report does not capture the World Bank’s broader energy work, which involves not only development policy loans, but a mix of interventions – policy reforms, investments, technical assistance – that work together to promote climate smart growth and increased energy access.’
For instance, in Mozambique, DPF-supported subsidies were going towards four coal power plants, three coal port terminals, two coal transport railways, and a natural gas plant.
In all this, the US is promoting a global fossil fuel alliance to make production cleaner and less destructive to the environment.
This alliance has been embraced by countries in Africa with coal reserves of 50 billion tonnes and which want to use this fossil fuel as part of their energy mix to provide electricity that will spur their development programmes. For example, Nigeria is funding coal projects with financing from the African Development Bank (AfDB) that will constitute about 30 per cent of the country’s power mix.
Speaking about the global fossil fuel alliance last month, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said his country ‘would welcome and help lead a global alliance of countries willing to make fossil fuels cleaner.’ Perry has previously said that countries including Nigeria should join the alliance while criticising the World Bank and other organisations that restrict funding for clean fossil fuel projects.
‘Development starts when you have a power supply,’ he said. ‘That’s my message to Africa.
America is truly your friend and your partner. And we’re here to help Africa use fossil fuels and use them cleanly with the world’s newest and best technology.’
Bloomberg reported earlier this month: ‘The Trump administration has been pushing for United Nations and multilateral development bank funds to support the construction of high-efficiency plants that produce less greenhouse gas emissions than older designs as well as construct ‘clean coal’ plants that employ carbon-capture technology to strip out even more.’
African countries have expressed interest in technology that will reduce emissions while giving them the chance to use fossil fuels for their benefit.