Europe’s ‘Dash for Gas’ in Africa is a Setback for Renewable Energy
Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, addresses COP27’s opening ceremony.

Europe’s attempts to get alternative gas supplies from African countries in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine are a “bridge to nowhere”, former US vice-president Al Gore told the UN climate change talks in Egypt, COP27.

“We must see the so-called dash for gas for what it really is: a dash down a bridge to nowhere, leaving the countries of the world facing climate chaos and billions in stranded assets, especially here in Africa,” Gore told the opening ceremony on Monday.

Earlier, civil society activists had also condemned the ‘dash for gas’, describing it as a short-term approach that was undermining Africa’s quest for renewable energy.

Turning Africa into Europe´s gas station

“European countries want to turn Africa into Europe’s gas station. They want to lock Africa on a gas pathway that will leave Africa with stranded assets, and leave the 600 million Africans who currently don’t have access to energy without the opportunity to power their future prosperity using the incredible renewable energy potential that exists,” Mohamed Adow, CEO of PowerShift Africa, told a press conference on Monday.

Gore also decried the short-sightedness of Europe’s approach to gas expansion in Africa, warning that it would “lock in” long-term dependence on fossil fuels. 

“We have to move beyond the era of fossil fuel colonialism. The dash for gas in Africa is a dash for gas to be sent to wealthy countries,” said Gore. He was referring to the recent spate of visits by European leaders to the continent to shop for gas to replace sanctioned Russian supplies – something that has reinforced the political will of some fossil-fuel rich African states to exploit their vast reserves. 

Instead of succumbing to those pressures, Africa should aim to become a ¨renewable energy superpower.¨ Gore added. 

On highway to climate hell

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres challenged COP27 to “agree on a clear, time-bound roadmap reflective of the scale and urgency of the challenge” to assist countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, including “effective institutional arrangements for financing”.

“Getting concrete results on loss and damage is a litmus test of the commitment of the governments to the success of COP27,” said Guterres, who told the ceremony that the world was “on the highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator”.

Mia Mottley the Prime Minister of Barbados, said that it was time to reform the Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – so that they could assist countries in the global South.

“The global North borrows with interest rates of between one to 4%, the South at 14% and then we wonder why the just energy partnerships are not working,” said Mottley.

“Similarly, we ask ourselves, if countries that want to finance their way to net zero and want to do the right thing can’t get the critical supplies, will they not have to rely again on natural gases to cross that bridge?”

Commending Denmark, Belgium and Scotland for accepting “the precepts and principles of loss and damage as critical and as morally just”, Mottley said it wasn’t enough for state parties to do the right thing.

“The non-state actors and the stakeholders, oil and gas companies, need to be brought into a special conversation between now and COP28. How do companies that make $200 billion in profits in the last three months not expect to contribute at least 10 cents on every dollar of profit or loss and damage fund?”

Ugandan climate activist Leah Namugerwa

Young Ugandan activist Leah Namugerwa said her ambition was to plant one million trees and bluntly asked the world leaders at COP what they were doing to address the climate crisis.

“If COP27 is to truly deliver, we must face some real truths.  We have had decades of inaction from all leaders, such as that the world is in a state of emergency because of fossil fuels. Africa contributes less than 4% of the carbon emissions while we suffer the most,” said Namugerwa. 

Debt burden hampering sustainable development

At a press conference before the opening ceremony, Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, called out wealthy countries for failing to honour the commitment made over a decade ago to raise $100 billion per annum by 2020 for climate mitigation. 

“Vulnerable countries and poorer countries are reeling from the debt burden that they have to deal with. Much of the debt burden is also due to loans that they have to take out to actually address climate impacts,” said Essop, whose network represents over 1,900 civil society organisations in 130 countries.

“Developing countries are going through a vicious cycle of debt burden, taking out further loans and not having the fiscal space to actually deal with the developmental needs that they have in their own countries.”

Ahmed El Droubi, Greenpeace MENA campaigns manager, told the press conference that, not only had the $100 billion promised in Copenhagen in 2009 not materialised but that “approximately 70% of this finance comes in the forms of loans and further traps global South economies”.

Climate Action Network executive director Tasneem Essop and Ahmed El Droubi, Greenpeace MENA campaigns manager.

“The biggest issue of COP27 is the establishment of a loss and damage financial facility. This is long overdue, and is the greatest example of climate injustice that we see across the planet,” added Droubi.

Climate of ‘immense repression’ in Egypt

Essop also decried the “immense repression” of human rights defenders and climate activists in Egypt, with at least 60,000 “prisoners of conscience” being held in jails.

“There’s an overall trust deficit because of what I’ve just described – rich nations not fulfilling obligations – and then we also have a context in which, as civil society, we know that our right to protest, our right to assemble, our right have a voice, our right to have the right to dissent and hold power accountable is seriously and severely challenged in this COP being held in Egypt.”

British Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who was sentenced for five years in prison in 2019 for “spreading false news”, and has been on a months-long hunger strike, announced that he had stopped drinking water as COP27 got underway on Sunday, setting the stage for a showdown over the human rights issue in coming days.

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