Friday, April 24, 2015

Why climate challenges are an opportunity for Africa

The year 2015 is when climate change, energy needs and financing for development get the global attention they deserve. Over the course of the year, world leaders will settle on a new set of global development goals, hold a summit on financing for those goals and frame an agreement on climate change.

The challenges are immense. Creating jobs, sustaining growth and eradicating poverty in a carbon-constrained world demands a restructuring of energy systems and a deeper appreciation of the boundaries of our ecological systems. Our panel members are at the forefront of these debates.

On 5 June, at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan, will launch the 2015 report on climate and energy. The report will make the case that Africa’s engagement in climate change is inextricably linked to its pressing energy needs.

In Africa, unequal access to energy has reinforced the wider inequalities linked to poverty, gender and the rural-urban divide that have accompanied the economic growth of the past 15 years. Africa is already experiencing severe and damaging impacts from climate change. Yet no region has done less to contribute to global warming than Africa.

So great are the energy challenges and so severe the climate risks that it is easy to lose sight of the opportunities. And those opportunities are considerable. They are part of a fundamentally different narrative that is emerging across Africa. The climate change imperative is seen as an opportunity for Africa’s energy-poor countries to leapfrog straight to clean energy, avoiding decades of inefficient spending on polluting energy sources.

In this 2015 “climate moment”, Africa must emphasize that making the transition to clean energy will only be possible if the chosen pathway ends energy poverty; if it enables countries to continue to grow and transform economically – a “development first” approach; and if it ensures that Africa will not become one of the world’s worst polluting continents.

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