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Africa/Global: Climate Action Beyond Paris

AfricaFocus Bulletin
September 30, 2015 (150930)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Temperatures over subtropical southern Africa have risen at more than twice the global rate over the last five decades." - CSIR, South Africa. *** "To date, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies." - Arabella Advisors, USA. *** "Kenya is emerging as a hotspot for off-grid solar power. A 2014 study by M-KOPA Solar and InterMedia shows that 14 per cent of the surveyed population use solar as their primary lighting and charging source." - The Nation, Kenya

While news media in coming months may focus primarily on the global climate summit coming up in Paris two months from now, it is already clear to everyone that governmental commitments to reduce carbon emissions to be made in Paris will fall short of that needed to curb global warming short of catastrophic results for the planet [See for summary and links to a report on the "intended national determined contributions" (INDCs).]

Even more than the results in Paris, however, the race to save the planet and to limit the damage to regions already most affected, particularly those in Africa, will be determined by actions before and after Paris, around the world. Shell's decision to stop drilling in the Arctic in response to massive public pressure is one example. The quotes above point to a few of the other places that action is making a difference and can make more.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two short articles and one excerpt from a longer report on different fronts of the fight for significant action on climate change and climate justice: global fossil-fuel divestment, Africa-based and Africa-specific research on the rapidly mounting damage from global warming, and one example of the accelerating growth of off-grid solar power, particularly in East Africa (see M-KOPA website at

Another relevant article not included here is "55GW of Solar PV Will Be Installed Globally in 2015, Up 36% Over 2014; Solar will account for roughly half of new electricity capacity out to 2020." GreenTechMedia, June 17, 2015 Note that GreenTechMedia ( is a fundamental source for following global technological developments in renewable energy.

For talking points and previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and the environment, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Measuring the Growth of the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement

Arabella Advisors, September 2015

[Excerpts only. For full report visit - direct URL:]

Executive Summary

To date, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. The divestment movement has grown exponentially since Climate Week in September 2014, when Arabella Advisors last reported that 181 institutions and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets had committed to divest. At that time, divestment advocates pledged to triple these numbers by the December 2015 Paris UN climate negotiations. Three months before the negotiations, we have already witnessed a fifty-fold increase in the total combined assets of those committed to divest from fossil fuels.

  • Pledges have spread to sectors not traditionally associated with divestment, including pension funds and private companies. In 2014, foundations, universities, faith-based organizations, NGOs, and other mission-driven organizations led the movement. Today, large pension funds and private-sector actors such as insurance companies hold over 95 percent of the total combined assets of those committed to divest.

  • While historically based in the United States, the divestment movement now spans the globe. In 2014, 78 percent of divesting institutions were US-based. Today, 57 percent are US-based. Institutions that have chosen to divest represent more than 646 million individuals around the world.

  • Climate risk to investment portfolios is helping drive the exponential growth of divestment. Reports by Citigroup analysts, HSBC, Mercer, the International Energy Agency, Bank of England, Carbon Tracker Initiative, and others have offered evidence of a significant, quantifiable risk to portfolios exposed to fossil fuel assets in a carbon constrained world. The leaders of several of the largest institutions to divest in the past year have cited climate risk to investment portfolios as a key factor in their decision.

  • Thanks to increasing commitments to invest and a proliferation of fossil free products, more capital is flowing toward climate solutions. Globally, investment in clean energy reached $310 billion in 2014. Among those pledging to divest, many are also committing to invest in climate solutions: those institutions and individuals that have pledged to both divest and invest in clean energy collectively hold $785 billion in assets.

Other Key Areas of Growth:

  • The faith community is making a strong case for the moral responsibility to act on climate and to provide clean energy access to the world's poor, bolstering the divestment movement. Faith leaders of diverse religions and creeds are demanding our world's leaders take meaningful action to curb climate change at the UN climate negotiations in Paris in December. Many are also divesting their own assets of fossil fuels: 126 faith-based organizations with a collective $24 billion in assets have committed to divest.

  • University commitments have nearly tripled in the past year, as 40 educational institutions with $130 billion in assets have pledged to divest. A number of prominent universities have committed in the last year, including the University of California, Georgetown, and Oxford. The University of California is the largest higher education commitment to date, with a $98 billion portfolio.

  • Divestment by state and local governments worldwide is also growing: The California General Assembly voted this month to divest its $476 billion public employee pension funds from companies that get at least half of their revenue from coal mining. Providence, Rhode Island became one of the largest cities to commit to divesting all its funds from top coal companies. In Australia, the city of Newcastle— home to the largest coal port in the world—voted to divest, as did the government of the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Foundation pledges have grown rapidly since September 2014, as 116 foundations with over $10 billion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuels.

The surge in the divestment and investment movement comes at a critical moment, as the world's leaders converge on Paris in December 2015 to negotiate an agreement to curb catastrophic warming. The growth of divestment is adding to mounting pressure globally for governments to make meaningful commitments to transition to a clean energy economy. Divesting and investing in clean energy has offered millions of individuals across the world an opportunity to take direct action on climate. A large and mobilized constituency is now demanding political and financial action on climate, and this pressure will likely continue to build irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations in Paris.

A History of the Divestment Movement

The fossil fuel divestment movement was born when climate advocates decided to directly challenge the fossil fuel industry. Inspired by the moral arguments of the historical anti-war and anti-apartheid divestment campaigns, a group of students launched a coordinated series of divestment efforts on half a dozen college campuses in 2011, calling on their administrations to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels and invest in clean energy and "just transition" strategies to empower those most impacted by environmental degradation and climate change. By spring 2012, the campaign had spread to an estimated 50 campuses. Since then, students, alumni, and professors have launched sit-ins, rallies, and occupations of administration offices on campuses around the world.

The movement gained steam as the moral arguments of the student divestment campaigns converged with an increasing recognition of financial risks associated with investment in fossil fuels. In the summer of 2012, author and longtime climate activist Bill McKibben published "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" in Rolling Stone, forging a link between fossil fuel divestment and the need to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius (2° C). Drawing on the groundbreaking analysis "Unburnable Carbon" by the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative, he argued that a broad-based global movement should directly confront the fossil fuel industry because its viability is rooted in existing carbon reserves that cannot be burned without severe consequences for the climate. McKibben,, and other leading climate organizers threw their support behind the student divestment campaigns, launching a global divestment effort.

The movement quickly grew beyond universities as new sectors responded to the call to act. A diverse group of faith congregations, environmental NGOs, municipalities, and health care organizations signed on as early adopters of divestment. Led by the Wallace Global Fund, 17 foundations—controlling $1.8 billion in assets—launched "Divest-Invest Philanthropy" in response to the movement's charge that foundations should not hold assets in a fossil fuel industry that worked in direct opposition to their stated missions. Ten cities, led by Seattle, announced they would also divest from fossil fuels. "Cities that do so will be leaders in creating a new model for quality of life, environmental sustainability, and economic success," argued Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

As the broader climate movement reached a crossroads in the fall of 2014, the divestment campaign won global recognition as a critical component of climate action. In September 2014, the world's leading climate advocates converged on New York City for Climate Week, which included the "People's Climate March," an unprecedented event that saw 400,000 people take to the streets to demand that the world's leaders act on climate. The week of action coincided with the United Nation's Climate Summit, which sought to catalyze meaningful climate action in advance of formal international negotiations to reach a global climate treaty in 2015. During Climate Week, divestment advocates announced that, as of September 2014, 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets had pledged to divest from fossil fuels. A report by Arabella Advisors ( found that, in just three years, the divestment campaign had mobilized billions of dollars in capital and engaged a broad segment of society in its efforts to accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy.

The movement's growth was heralded by world leaders and covered widely in the global media. Prominently featured was a notable commitment by the heirs of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller to divest the Rockefeller Brothers Fund endowment. The divestment and investment movement was recognized in the UN's formal climate summit proceedings as one of many important actions to catalyze the transition to a clean energy economy. At the same time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu issued a stark call to action on climate, calling for "an end to the fossil fuel era" and an "apartheid- style boycott to save the planet." In a press conference announcing that the divestment movement had exceeded $50 billion in total assets of those committing, leading advocates set the bar even higher for 2015, pledging to triple the total assets by the 2015 Paris UN climate negotiations. Since then, the total combined assets of those committing to divest has increased, fifty-fold, expanding in scope and scale in ways no one fully anticipated.

CSIR projects drastic temperature increase over Africa

11 September 2015

CSIR climate modellers believe that 2015 is on its way to be the warmest year ever recorded. This is partially due to climate-change, and partially due to a massive El Nino event currently developing in the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures over subtropical southern Africa have risen at more than twice the global rate over the last five decades.

Moreover, further warming of between 4 - 6 degrees C over the subtropics and 3 - 5 degrees C over the tropics are projected by the end of the century under low mitigation, relative to the present-day climate. This was revealed in a CSIR study using a regional climate model integrated on a powerful computer-cluster at its Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), to obtain detailed projections of future climate change over Africa.

This study comes ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)'s 21st Conference of the Parties (CoP 21), due to take place in Paris, France in November 2015. This meeting aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C.

"If the negotiations fail to ensure a high-mitigation future, we are likely to see rapidly rising surface temperature across the continent," says Dr Francois Engelbrecht, CSIR Principal Researcher and leader of the study entitled, "Projections of rapidly rising surface temperatures over Africa under low mitigation."

Africa is particularly vulnerable to excessive temperature increases due to the continent's dependence on subsistence farming and rainfed agriculture. "For many regions, the impact of temperature increases on the agricultural and biodiversity sectors may be significant, stemming from temperature-related extreme events such as heat-waves, wild fires and agricultural drought," explains Dr Engelbrecht.

Heatwaves are rare events over Africa under present day conditions. The highest number of heat wave days occurs over the Limpopo river basin region in southern Africa, the eastern interior and east coast regions of South Africa and the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Drastic increased occurrences of heat wave days may be expected across the continent under climate change, contributing to decreased maize crop yield through the exceedance of critical temperature thresholds increases in livestock mortality and adverse impacts on human health. If a heat wave occurs during a drought, which dries out vegetation, it can contribute to bushfires and wildfires. Wildfires cause large financial losses to agriculture, livestock production and forestry in Africa on an annual basis.

"Globally, Africa is the single largest source of biomass burning emissions," says Engelbrecht. "It is very important to understand the impacts of increasing occurrences of fires on the African savannas, as well as potential feedbacks to the regional and global climate system". Moreover, Engelbrecht and his co-authors point out in the paper that general reductions in soil-moisture are plausible to occur across the continent, as a result of enhanced evaporation that occurs in response to increasing surface temperatures. "In the subtropics, this effectively implies a longer burning season and a shorter growing season", says Engelbrecht.

Considering the fact that African temperatures in the subtropics are projected to rise at 1.5 times the global rate of temperature increase (an estimate that may be conservative) and the aim of the upcoming UNFCCC negations seeking to keep global warming below 2 degrees C compared to pre-industrial temperatures - the Long Term Global Goal (LTGG), Engelbrecht is of the opinion that the trends and projections of rapidly rising African temperatures should be a key consideration at the UNFCCC negotiations. "The relatively high rate of temperature increases over Africa should be considered when deciding on the suitability of the LTGG of the UNFCCC in terms of climate-change impacts in Africa" Under low mitigation, the world is likely to experience an increase in global average surface temperature of 3 degrees C or more, and the relatively strong temperature signal over Africa is of particular concern within this context."

The full paper, which has been published in Environmental Research Letters, is available here:

"M-KOPA Solar connects 250,000 homes to power in East Africa"

Daily Nation, September 23, 2015 - direct URL:

In Summary

M-KOPA is one of the fastest growing power providers in the region, connecting solar to over 500 new homes each day.

Each M-KOPA Solar home is calculated to save $750, compared to using kerosene over a four-year period.

The battery-powered 8W home system has three lights, a phonecharging facility and a chargeable radio.

By Edwin Okoth

A local 'pay-as-you-go' off grid energy provider has announced connecting 250,000 homes across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to a solar power system.

M-Kopa Solar which provides payment plan for supply of a solar lighting system, a radio and phone charging apparatus said the achievement was in line with its target to connect one million customers by 2018 to its solar power systems.

The firm's Managing Director and Co-Founder Jesse Moore said the growth in connected customers was satisfactory as the region renewed focus on renewable energy.

"Last September we celebrated 100,000 customers, and a year later we are already at a quarter-million. With hundreds of great customers coming on board every day, we are helping East Africa leapfrog over the grid to enjoy cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable solar power," Mr Moore said.

Off-Grid Solar Power

Kenya is emerging as a hotspot for off-grid solar power.

A 2014 study by M-KOPA Solar and InterMedia shows that 14 per cent of the surveyed population use solar as their primary lighting and charging source.

M-KOPA is one of the fastest growing power providers in the region, connecting solar to over 500 new homes each day.

The battery-powered 8W home system has three lights, a phonecharging facility and a chargeable radio.

The savings generated by using off grid solar over kerosene are said to be substantial for individual households and the broader East African economy.

Alex Nduati, an Athi river resident became the plan's 250,000th customer when he purchased an M-KOPA III solar home system.

"I am so excited to take home a solar system that will give me much more value than kerosene, and with M-KOPA's daily payment plan it is affordable for me. I purchased this system for my rural home where there is no access to electricity," Mr Nduati said.

Each M-KOPA Solar home is calculated to save $750, compared to using kerosene over a four-year period.

This means that the combined projected savings by the 250,000 households using M-KOPA Solar is $187 Million.

The Nairobi-headquartered, M-KOPA Solar now has a network of over 1,500 direct sales agents and 100 customer service centres across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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