11 December 2017

Africa: Cloud of Despair Hovers Over Paris Climate Meeting

Abuja — AS world leaders gather again in Paris on Tuesday (12th December) to mark the anniversary of a climate deal signed in the city two years ago, there is little sign of the $100 billion pledged to help developing countries meet their goals on global warming.

The Paris Accord, signed and ratified by most African countries including Nigeria, is aimed at cutting the rise in temperature caused by carbon and other gases.

China and India, two of the world's largest polluters, have agreed to cut the burning of coal in generating electricity, but have this year increased its use.

India still has an estimated 300 million citizens without electricity and concedes that getting such a huge number of people onto a national grid can only be achieved with fossil fuel.

Solar and wind technology are being phased in by the Delhi government, but only work when the weather permits, and theft of solar panels has been a problem.

But Africa has a staggering 600 million people living off the grid. South Africa is close to full electrification, but produces 92 per cent of its power from coal and is busy opening new plants.

One of the continent's largest cement makers, Dangote - founded by Aliko Dangote originally from Kano State - uses coal or coal-fired electricity at many of its plants.

Tuesday's meeting in Paris will be attended by French president Emmanuel Macron, UN secretary general António Guterres and World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim.

"We need to mobilize the agreed $100 billion for developing countries (mainly Africa)," Mr Guterres said.

"This is crucial to spur action and to build trust. We are far from having that entirely guaranteed."

While former United States (US) leader Barrack Obama signed up to this, Donald Trump has withdrawn his country from the Paris accord and has made clear he is not happy about funding any part of it. So far, little over 10 per cent of the $100 billion has been raised.

However, Mr Trump has committed to helping those countries that burn coal to reduce pollution by using the latest American clean-coal technology.

A report last month by Standard & Poors questioned whether the $100 billion would ever become a reality.

"In our view, it is very unlikely that governments would be willing, or able, to risk deteriorating their creditworthiness by stretching their budgets and debt burdens," to stoke up the fund, the report said.

Nigeria still has millions living off the grid and, even in cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, shops, banks, hotels and hospitals have their own generators as back up.

Critics say the Paris deal commits countries to aims and goals on reducing emissions, but takes no account of how to generate enough power to bring Africa in line with the US or Europe.

Even if the Paris money was available, it is unclear how Africa could produce enough kilowatts without using oil, gas or coal.

Nigerian neurosurgeon, Sylvanus Ayeni, who splits his time between the United States and Africa says money is not the answer.

"We hear endlessly how a gift of money can put things right, but more than a trillion dollars in aid to Africa since 1960 has done little to help."

In his new book *Rescue Thyself*, subtitled "Change in sub-Saharan Africa must come from within," Dr Ayeni says electricity remains a key challenge for Africa.

"We need solutions that work locally, not wafty notions from aid junkies and NGOs who, when they get it wrong, run back to the comfort of London or LA.

"For example, what's the point of spending scarce foreign exchange to import solar panels or wind turbines for oil rich countries like Angola or Nigeria. Or to Mozambique with natural gas, or Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa with billions of tons of coal in the ground."

Tuesday marks the final UN gathering of 2017 on climate change and while debate will continue in 2018, analysts say there remains little likelihood of funding the Paris Accord.

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