No Apologies: Africans Say Their Need For Oil Outweighs Climate Concerns
A handful of protesters on the ground floor of the cavernous Cape Town International Convention Centre spread fake oil on the ground and chanted, demanding an end to fossil fuels [pictured].
Two floors above, the hundreds of delegates at Africa Oil Week were largely unaware – and mostly unmoved – by the display.
“Under no circumstances are we going to be apologizing,” said Gabriel Obiang Lima, energy minister of Equatorial Guinea, adding that they need to exploit those resources to create jobs and boost economic development.
“Anybody out of the continent saying we should not develop those fields, that is criminal. It is very unfair.”
The tension keenly felt at oil conferences in Europe was largely absent over the three-day event in Cape Town; there was little focus on climate change, apart from the shadow renewables cast over long-term demand.
In contrast, investor and government pressure to address climate change has fundamentally altered oil events in Europe.
While no oil-producing country has stopped developing fossil fuel resources, pledges such as Britain’s promise to be net carbon neutral by 2050 or Norway’s national carbon tax show that governments acknowledge a need to shift away from fossil fuels.
In Cape Town, African leaders touted the good that oil, gas and even coal can bring on a continent where some 600 million people lack access to electricity.
“Energy is the catalyst for growth,” said Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s energy minister and national chair of the ruling African National Congress.
“They even want to tell us to switch off all the coal-generated power stations,” he said. “Until you tell them, ‘you know we can do that, but you’ll breathe fresh air in the darkness’.”
While Africa is rich in mineral resources and has for decades shipped fossil fuels to global consumers, its own citizens have contributed a minuscule amount of the emissions that cause climate change.
Since the 18th century, all African countries put together have emitted seven times less carbon dioxide than China, 13 times less than the United States and 18 times less than the combined countries of Europe, according to industry publication Carbonbrief.
Global climate efforts recognize this, pressuring developed countries to cut emissions much more aggressively than developing ones to make up for their historic contributions.
James Josling, head of Africa oil trading for Swiss-based Trafigura, said telling Africa not to develop its resources was akin to making it “pay for the sins” of other regions.
Read rest at Reuters