The effects of climate change are increasingly becoming catastrophic, the urgency to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources has never been more apparent. Gas is not the solution - as the AfDB meets for its annual meeting the need for clean, sustainable, renewable energy access across the African continent and ensuring a just transition should be top of the agenda.
The shift to renewable energy isn’t just about transitioning from one energy source to another but about transforming existing systems that uphold the role of the fossil industry. The impacts of climate change affecting millions across Africa mean that the time is now to build clean resilient energy systems. Public finance must lead the way and catalyse the shift out of dirty energy and provide access to clean energy sources for Africa.
A just transition should democratise energy systems and recognise people and indigenous communities whose lives are disenfranchised by existing energy systems. It's also about people, particularly women, youth and indigenous communities, whose livelihoods and resources are deeply intertwined with these energy sources.
Energy future in the balance
Africa is caught between the legacy of fossil fuels and the promise of renewable energy. The discourse around energy is shrouded with false solutions and attempts to prolong the shift away from fossil fuels by positioning gas as the transition fuel and justifying the continued expansion of fossil fuels.
In Africa, two significant projects bring this into sharp focus: the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs). Both propose to improve the economic conditions (GDP Growth) and address the energy crisis within Africa.
EACOP, a proposed 1,445-kilometer pipeline, aims to transport oil from fields in western Uganda to a port in Tanzania. While designed to tap into Uganda's extensive oil reserves, the pipeline faces significant opposition by African civil society for its potential environmental and social impacts while the majority is aimed for export out of Africa.
Meanwhile, the JETPs are supposedly aimed at transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in an equitable manner. Despite their 'just' label, JETPs face criticism due to the inclusion of LNG as a transition fuel for Africa despite its carbon and methane emission, high cost and risk of stranded assets. There is a call to stop funding LNG projects and phase out the existing gas projects as in the case of Senegal JETP which proposes to exploit Senegal’s gas reserves for export without solving domestic energy issues.
The human and environmental cost of gas expansion
Gas expansion across the continent has profound implications for indigenous communities and local resources. This is particularly evident in countries with significant gas reserves such as Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, and more recently Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and Senegal. Construction and operation of these projects risk local ecosystems, threaten biodiversity, and contribute to carbon emissions while only prolonging the transition to clean energy. The result is not just environmental degradation, but also a disruption of the delicate balance that these communities have maintained with nature for generations. Indigenous communities risk displacement, livelihood disruption, and potential violation of land rights. Biodiversity is threatened, local ecosystems are disrupted, and many communities have a risk of endangering nature for future generations.
Demands for the AfDB ahead of its AGM
The Bank and its shareholders must:
- Commit to a fossil fuel exclusion policy and rule out fossil gas expansion in the new AfDB energy policy that ensures Africa is not locked into a high-carbon trajectory, making it harder to achieve the global climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
- Shift finance into renewable energy and lead the way to a more equitable and sustainable energy future. The potential for renewable energy—particularly solar and wind could bring about significant social and economic benefits. The AfDB should pave the way for Africa as a forward-looking world leader in cost-effective, clean, decentralised, renewable energy.
- Open space for and implement meaningful consultation with African civil society on the new energy policy for the Bank
- Ensure support for an energy transition that is truly just. A transition that respects the rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities—requires significant changes in how the Bank approaches and finances energy projects. Full consultation with local communities and complete assessment of the social and environmental impacts of projects is vital.
- Commit to upholding accountability and transparency measures.
Ending public funding for fossil fuels isn't just an environmental imperative—it's a human right. It's about acknowledging the profound human and environmental costs of these fossils and striving towards a more equitable and sustainable energy future. The AfDB must consider how its actions benefit all - is not just about the environment—it's about justice. It's about recognizing that the same communities who have benefited least from fossil fuels are often the ones who bear the brunt of their environmental and social costs.