Africa’s dash for gas heats up COP 27

Africa’s natural resources are at the heart of a heated debate about how to balance economic growth and tackle global warming.

At the current COP27 negotiations in Egypt, dubbed by some as the “African COP”, the continent’s leaders are trying to get support and funding to tap into Africa’s vast gas reserves, arguing that gas is less polluting than alternative fossil fuels such as coal and oil. This argument has already been endorsed by the European Union.

African leaders argue that their countries need to exploit their reserves to help generate electricity and make it available to millions of their people who lack access to the grid. They also want to increase exports to Europe, where many countries are looking for an alternative to Russian gas.

They argue that Western countries benefitted from dirtier fossil fuels so Africa should not be prevented from exploiting its cleaner natural gas in order to raise living standards on the continent.

But climate campaigners and delegates from low-lying islands have said this will lock Africa into using fossil fuels for many years and make the crucial goal of slowing the global temperature rise more difficult.

They say the continent should embrace renewable energy instead, pointing out that Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s solar power potential but only 1 per cent of global installed solar capacity was on the continent.

“Fossil fuels must be phased out; they must be kept in the ground. Africa’s backyard will not become Europe’s forecourt,” Greenpeace Africa said in a statement.

Its spokesperson, Mbong Tsafack, said the push by the African delegations for support and funding to exploit their gas reserves has happened mainly on the sidelines of the COP27 talks.

“The deals that are being negotiated are generally with companies from the global north,” he told the BBC.

However, African officials insist that they have the right to exploit their resources and say their COP27 negotiators have been given the authority to reject any deal that forces them to decarbonise if it jeopardised the continent’s future development. -BBC

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