Updated: March 3, 2021
Some African energy ministers last week vowed to stick with fossil fuel products, even as climate change activists protested outside, warning that our planet was facing one of its biggest existential threats, and doing nothing was not an option.
The ministers described calls for Africa to embrace the green economy as “criminal”, “unfair” and “unreasonable”. One minister even asked whether Africa should breathe fresh air in darkness, noting that half of the African continent still does not have access to electricity.
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At least 23 cabinet ministers and 1,839 delegates gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, last week, for the annual “Africa Oil Week”, known as Africa’s largest oil and gas forum.
The Ministers sought investments to expand oil and gas exploration, transportation and refineries.
As they deliberated inside, Extinction Rebellion activists protested outside, demanding African nations stop exploiting fossil fuels to fight climate change.
But the African energy ministers dismissed their protests, arguing that at least half of the continent’s population, 600 million people, still has no access to electricity, adding that the poor quality of power supply made it difficult to power industry and create jobs.
“Under no circumstances are we going to be apologizing…. Anybody out of the continent saying we should not develop those [oil and gas] fields, that is criminal. It is very unfair,” Gabriel Obiang Lima, Energy Minister of Equatorial Guinea, told reporters.
According to Gwede Mantashe, Energy Minister of South Africa and national chair of the ruling African National Congress, Africans cannot breathe fresh air in darkness.
“Energy is the catalyst for growth. They even want to tell us to switch off all the coal-generated power stations. Until you tell them, ‘you know we can do that, but you’ll breathe fresh air in the darkness.’ ”
Mantashe said ensuring a secure supply of oil for the nation was “not negotiable”.
“We want to supply energy at a cost-effective level, because if it is too expensive I can tell you that it becomes ‘a nice to have,’ but people do not access it,” S&P Global Platts quoted him saying.
Noel Mboumba, Minister for Hydrocarbons of Gabon, explained that oil was still a major driver of its development, adding that “we will do all in our power to develop it.”
Somalia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed added: “We all share the common objective of facilitating the crucial investments that will power Africa’s economies, build communities and shape societies.”
But, even as they stuck to their guns, global warming was continuing to worsen across the world, threatening the existence of all humans.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Climate model projections summarized in the report indicated that during the 21st century the global surface temperature was likely to rise a further 0.3 to 1.7 °C (0.5 to 3.1 °F) in a moderate scenario, or as much as 2.6 to 4.8 °C (4.7 to 8.6 °F) in an extreme scenario, depending on the rate of future greenhouse gas emissions and on climate feedback effects.
Their findings have been recognized by the national science academies of the major industrialized nations, and are not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing.