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Climate Crisis Can’t be Fixed by Causing Energy Crisis in Africa, Buhari Says

Ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) which begins tomorrow, where world leaders are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari in an article he penned in Newsweek

Muhammadu Buhari

Ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) which begins tomorrow, where world leaders are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari in an article he penned in Newsweek Magazine, has made it clear that climate crisis in developed countries would not be fixed by causing energy crisis in Africa.

The president who departed Abuja on Sunday for the conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), gave the assertion in an opinion titled: “The Climate Crisis Will Not Be Fixed By Causing Crisis in Africa.”

According to the president, unless the developed world wakes up, they run the risk of trying to fix the climate crisis with an energy crisis.

The President, while making reference to a statement by senior United Nations officials who raised the alarm that world conflict and chaos and mass migrations and institutional collapse showed greenhouse gas emissions remained unchecked for much longer, said mankind has a duty to act on these dangers.

Buhari said: “Dire warnings of the end of the world are as old as civilisation itself. But each year as the countdown to United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) begins, they grow in volume and intensity. But because of their seriousness we must not do so rashly.

“It is an inconvenient truth, but energy solutions proposed by those most eager to address the climate crisis are fuel for the instability of which they warn. No more clearly can this be seen than in Africa. For today’s 1.3 billion Africans, access to low-cost and reliable energy is the highest of all possible concerns. “Estimated to rise to 2.5 billion by 2050—by 2100 Nigeria alone is projected to have the second largest population on the planet—this “great doubling” (for Nigeria, quadrupling) has the right to more dependable electricity than their forebears. “Without extra and stable power, we cannot build the factories that will transform Africa from a low-job, extractives-led economy to a high employment middle-income continent. Children cannot learn for longer and better by battery light any more than by candlelight.

“No more than the Africa of today, the Africa of tomorrow cannot advance using energy production that intermittently delivers. Yet in our rush to address climate concerns, and for western aid agencies and investors to burnish their green credentials, we rush to install the most alternative of energy sources which are often the most unreliable.”

The president noted that, “wind and solar, the most fashionable of modern energy technologies, are flawed by their reliance on back-up diesel generators or batteries for when there is no wind for the turbines or sun for the panels.

“It also seems unnoticed that in our global rush for electric cars we risk replacing the last century’s scramble for fossil fuels with a new global race in lithium for batteries. Where significant deposits are to be found, such as in Africa, this could endanger geopolitical stability.

“This makes the economic migrations the U.N. warned of more likely. We must think carefully whether our dash to terminate the use of fossil fuels so swiftly is as wise as it sounds.

“There is no single “green bullet” that can be deployed either in Africa or the world that solves concerns of environmentalists while simultaneously offering the power to fuel hope of greater wealth and progress for the extra one billion citizens of our African future.”

He, however, pointed out that there are certain things that could be done, starting with transitioning to cleaner, but consistent, energy production.

“We can bring forward new technologies such as mini-hydro power plants which can operate and produce power day and night along shallow waterways without damaging the aquatic life on which local communities are sustained.

“We can also invest in nuclear. Though not renewable it is carbon neutral and capable of producing baseload, constant electricity production on which sustained economic progress can be built. Nigeria is among a handful of African countries exploring nuclear power, with a research reactor already operational.

“And we can also learn from our friends in Europe and America who do not always practice what they preach. We call on them to lift the moratorium they have placed on fossil fuel investments in Africa. Nigeria has pledged to eliminate illegal gas flaring by 2030—a by-product of our oil industry—and harness it for electricity production.

“Our intention to end Nigeria’s single greatest contribution to greenhouse emissions may stall without it. Yet there are no such limitations on investment in natural gas power in the West where it is considered a transitional energy source. There is a deal to be done at COP26, but none without the agreement of the nations of Africa.

“The climate warnings we hear them. We live them. But no one has the right to deny the advancement of our continent.”

Meanwhile, the president yesterday left Abuja for Glasgow, Scotland to attend the conference.

The president in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, was scheduled to deliver his national statement at the High-Level segment for Heads of State and Government at the conference on Tuesday.

Buhari’s address is expected to highlight Nigeria’s key priorities and action to tackle climate change as well as progress on the country’s transition to low carbon economy, consistent with achieving the Paris Climate Agreement.

The conference, being hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy, would bring parties together to help accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement as well as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Given Nigeria’s leading role in taking climate action and as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, it explained that COP26 would afford a unique opportunity for the Nigerian delegation to work with other parties to make progress on the main goals of the conference including securing global net zero by mid-century and keeping 1.5C within reach; adapting to protect communities and natural habitats as well as mobilising the much needed finances to meet the set targets.

In Glasgow, the president would participate in some side-line events hosted by US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The president would be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of State, Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) and Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

President Buhari would thereafter travel to Paris, France on an official visit to reciprocate an earlier one to Nigeria by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and also attend the Paris Peace forum 2021, the fourth edition to be hosted by the French President.

It would have Heads of State and Government and CEOs of major multinationals, as well as several civil society actors, gathering to advance concrete solutions to the enormous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to improve global governance in times of COVID-19.

The summit would focus on spurring a more solid and inclusive recovery by addressing the various gaps in global governance, offering initiatives to better tend to the global commons, and putting forward new principles of action for the post-COVID world.

While the President is in Paris, the Nigerian government would organise the Nigeria-Paris Forum. The event is expected to pull a crowd of Nigerian and French investors, government and business leaders, diplomats and the media in the hope of showcasing opportunities on both sides as well as bringing enlightenment to bear on the prevailing security, economic and investment climate in Nigeria.

President Buhari is expected back in the country after the engagements.

Deji Elumoye in Abuja