Africa’s Leaders Say Rich Countries Need to Quit Oil and Gas First
A swift transition is crucial in the global fight against climate change. But not only would that be particularly costly in poorer nations, many African countries have an abundance of natural gas or other fossil fuels, and they argue forcefully that the rest of the world doesn’t have a right to tell them not to use it.
Proven crude oil reserves on the African continent total more than one hundred billion barrels spanning eleven countries, with Libya and Nigeria among the 10 biggest producers globally. The region is rich in gas, too: Combined, Nigeria, Algeria and Mozambique hold about 6 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves.
As world leaders meet at COP26 in Glasgow, some African leaders and activists are, for the first time, vocally opposing a speedier pivot to renewables for their countries. Instead, they are pressing for a slower transition, one that would embrace a continued reliance on fossil fuels — particularly natural gas, which burns more cleanly than coal or oil, but which still pumps planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Their calls come at an awkward time.
This year alone, scientists and researchers have issued numerous reports showing the damage that the widespread burning of fossil fuels has caused to the climate over the decades. The scientific findings highlight the urgency of switching to cleaner energy if the world is to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times, a target set by the Paris accord, the agreement among nations to slow climate change.
Beyond that temperature threshold, scientists say, the risk of calamities like deadly heat waves, water shortages and ecosystem collapse grows sharply.
But in order to hit that target and avert the worst climate catastrophes, analysts here say, African nations should be supported financially by wealthier ones as they seek alternative pathways to reducing emissions. When the time comes, Mr. Gwemende said, developed countries should also transfer technical knowledge on renewables to Africa.