As the clock races towards December 2015, when a new global treaty on climate change is due, African leaders face competing priorities. Already suffering the effects of climate change, they naturally support efforts to minimise the emissions of global greenhouse gases. On the other hand, they urgently need power to boost and transform their economies.
Their challenge is to adopt a judicious energy mix, the right balance between fossil and renewable energies that will meet these two priorities, participants said at a meeting on October 30th, convened in Geneva by the Africa Progress Panel (APP).
Chaired by Kofi Annan, the meeting was the first formal step in preparations for next year’s flagship report, the Africa Progress Report, which will analyse climate change issues for Africa and recommend policies to help Africa meet its needs for energy, growth, and agriculture.
The meeting brought together experts and representatives from the private sector, governments, multilateral agencies, non-governmental organisations, think tanks and academia.
Africa will likely need fossil fuels for some time, participants said, but the continent has impressive potential for renewable energies such as hydro, geothermal, and solar power too. These could allow the continent to leapfrog a dependence on high-carbon fuels. And if African nations can position themselves as technological leaders, they could influence global markets and clean energy technologies too.
Participants agreed that the report must link Africa’s climate adaptation with agriculture and financial issues too.
Some two thirds of people in African depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, for example. With global food demand growing rapidly, this sector offers excellent opportunity for commerce and poverty reduction. The 2014 Africa Progress Report – Grain, Fish, Money – found that throughout the continent agricultural productivity levels could easily double within five years. But climate change presents a significant threat.
Power based on renewable energy sources could generate jobs and economic growth, but will need considerable finance. Participants said the 2015 Africa Progress Report must explore the ways in which African nations can become more competitive on international financial markets and raise more money domestically too.
Above all, next year’s Africa Progress Report must carve out a distinctive and evidence-based agenda that supports a united African negotiating position ahead of Paris negotiations at the end of 2015.