Increasing gas use in Africa does not spell climate disaster, says Ibrahim Foundation

There are environmental benefits to expanding gas use on the continent, making the Cop26 pledge to end funding for fossil fuel projects counterproductive, says the Ibrahim Foundation.


Image : JJ van Ginkel / Adobe Stock

In a document published to coincide with its annual governance forum in May, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has condemned the agreement made at Cop26 in Glasgow to end fossil fuel financing and made the case for gas as a transition fuel in Africa.

The Ibrahim Governance Forum took place from 25 to 27 May at the headquarters of the Foundation in London and brought together high-ranking African personalities to discuss climate-related issues and denounce the lack of consideration of Africa’s development by the international community.

To support the debates and discussions during the three-day conference, the Foundation published a summary of Africa’s demands and expectations regarding the forthcoming UN climate conference, Cop27, which takes place in Egypt in November.

The 60-page document presents key facts and figures investigated by the Foundation’s researchers and aims at making Africa’s case in the climate debate.

It also includes potential questions for panel discussions that will take place during Cop27.

Climate justice cannot jeopardise energy justice

The report rejects the agreement signed by 39 countries and development agencies at Cop26 to stop direct international financing of fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022, along with a similar decision by the World Bank to stop financing natural gas.

In contrast, it argues that “increasing natural gas in Africa does not spell a climate disaster” and that there are environmental benefits to expanding gas use on the continent, as natural gas can address Africa’s challenges in terms of energy access.   

Recent discoveries of offshore natural gas reserves in Africa are therefore more valuable than ever for the continent’s development goals. However, as Europe is now looking starting to look southward to end its dependence on Russian gas, African countries that contain vast untapped gas reserves are likely to become big exporters instead of prioritising the access to electricity for all.

The case of Mozambique is particularly striking. Three-quarters of all gas produced in the country is exported. Meanwhile, less than 5% of its population uses clean cooking fuels and less than 30% have access to electricity.

“Africa’s best chance of closing its energy gap as soon as possible, whilst continuing its transition to renewables, is to be able to tap into a wide range of the continent’s energy resources – including the abundant reserves of natural gas, the least polluting fossil fuels,” says the report.

It takes the line that stopping the international funding of natural gas projects as part of a climate-related concern is a direct threat to Africa’s development, and a mistreatment of African countries in the global fight against climate change.

“Much of the global community has adopted a one-size-fits-all approach to fossil fuel financing, with little consideration for Africa’s energy poverty, small carbon footprint and the continent’s right to development,” says the report.

Forum debates climate crisis in Africa

Key speakers at the Ibrahim Governance Forum included World Bank president David Malpass, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, Egypt’s environment minister Yasmine Fouad and Macky Sall, president of Senegal and chair of the African Union.

The topics discussed were threefold: the specific impacts of the climate crisis in Africa, the challenge of balancing access to energy and climate protection, and Africa’s potential role in the global fight against climate change.

Alongside discussions on how Africa is severely affected by climate change, as well as the key role the continent could play in fighting it at a global level, panellists at the Forum insisted on the need to consider Africa’s specific position and development trajectory when implementing climate-related policies.

Former BBC broadcaster Georgie Ndirangu also spoke on behalf of African youth about their willingness and ability to engage in solutions for climate change.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is an African foundation headquartered in London. It was founded in 2006 by Sudanese billionaire and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim to define, assess and enhance governance and leadership in Africa. In addition to the Forum it publishes an annual Index of Governance in Africa and awards prizes and fellowships for leadership.

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