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What will it take for Africa to reach net-Zero emission?

As impacts of climate change continue to worsen and pose significant threats to socio-economic

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As impacts of climate change continue to worsen and pose significant threats to socio-economic development globally, Africa is looking at solutions which can unlock the continents position on climate adaptation, expansion to modern energy access, reduction on poverty and creating jobs, whilst contributing to the global objectives of circumventing the lock-in of carbon into future development on the continent.

Held under the theme: “Opportunities and Challenges for African Energy Transition: What will it take for Africa to reach net-zero emissions?’’, a high level online event organised by the African Union Commission (AUC) through the African Energy Commission (AFREC) during the COP26 meetings called for bold measures related to opportunities and challenges facing Africa, to accelerate actions towards the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Her Excellency Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission delivered a key note address, underlining that it is in the best interest of Africa to join global efforts, to transition towards Net-Zero emissions, in order to mitigate future impacts of climate change on the continent and also reduce the costs of adaptation.

‘‘The availability of abundant renewable energy resources on the continent such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bio-energy can transform Africa’s energy sector to modern and sustainable energy through both grid and off-grid systems. These resources offer opportunities to accelerate clean energy access on the continent through energy transition and especially factoring natural gas as an energy transition fuel for power and clean cooking’’, She stressed.
Dr Abou-Zeid also emphasized that Africa’s political will and commitment is highly significant to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy as evidenced by the targets within countries national plans reflected in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to achieve climate and development ambitions. ‘‘COP26 should seek to stimulate concrete actions to address the huge financing gap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050’’, she further stressed.

Though Africa contributes about 3.6% of the global CO2 emission, there is evidence that climate change impacts on Africa are more severe, bearing in mind that access to affordable clean energy remain one of the biggest challenges facing the continent. Thus, addressing persistent barriers to energy development on the continent through technical, financial, markets, policy and regulatory framework is essential.

H.E Dr Gerd Muller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany called for joint forces amongst nations to act now on issues of climate change and decarbonisation. “Decarbonisation is necessary because the energy sector is the source of more than two thirds of all CO2 emissions’’. He also expressed Germany’s commitment to work with Africa in her energy transition ambitions, hailing the proposed AU-EU Green Energy Initiative as an appropriate instrument for facilitating a bi-continental approach.

H.E. Mr. Benatou ZIANE, Minister of Energy Transition and Renewable Energy of Algeria noted in a statement read on his behalf by Mr CHABANE Merouane, Permanent Secretary, that Africa need to diversify its energy sources and liberate itself from the dependency of hydropower, to guarantee energy security for the future generations for the development of an economy which is based on a model that is aligned with socio-economic needs, promote equality, employment creation and responds to Africa’s energy challenges. “Algeria have already started working on a policy framework for a new energy model, to balance a local energy mix which is favourable for transition and reducing emission by 2030. We are also working on developing renewable energy by increasing 15 GW by 2035’’ he stressed.

During the panel discussions, H.E Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Energy of Ghana, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, Director Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management of UNECA, Mr. Henry Paul Batchi Baldeh, Director Power System Development at AfDB, and Mr. Mamadou Diakhité, Acting Head of Division for Environmental Sustainability at AUDA-NEPAD highlighted that it is essential for Africa to be realistic in choosing the kind energy transition pathways which address her unique requirements/circumstances by:

  • Enhancing policy, legislation and implementation approaches across national, regional and continental level, to enable a favourable environment for development is imperative;
  • Leapfrogging into the green development space without ignoring Africa’s infrastructure development and industrialisation ambitions;
  • Develop bankable projects to scale up access to funding and investment;
  • Adopt a mix of energy solutions to address the needs of each country including solutions to high tariffs and accessibility to sustainable energy options;
  • Promote energy efficiency which is necessary for energy transition;
  • Focus on building energy infrastructure and strengthening transmission corridors.

The African Union together with its various specialised agencies and partners have taken concrete actions by developing continental development programmes and projects such as, improving infrastructure to increase regional power system network by 2040. Some of those initiatives include the Single Africa Electricity market, the development of the African Energy Information System, The PIDA project and Geothermal amongst others. More studies on energy transition in various thematic areas such as Oil and Gas, Energy transition, Energy efficiency, Bioenergy and Capacity building are underway. Once completed, the AU, especially AFREC will be able to develop an informed response strategic plan which can stimulate and expanding energy development on the continent.

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