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Climate Change and the Environment

This page updated on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php.

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Talking Points

  • Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

  • When industries make decisions based on short-term profits, encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and more extreme weather will be even more devastating.

  • Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance. Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably, clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

Storify Update: The End of Coal?

Most recent bulletins on climate change and the environment

July 17, 2017  Congo (Kinshasa): Inga Dam Mirage Recedes, Again http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/inga1707.php
    The latest projections for the Inga 3 hydroelectric project on the Congo River to become operational, cited in press reports last week, are 2024 or 2025. But even if the project is financed and constructed, says a new report, the project will likely provide only minimal electric power for the people of Democratic Republic of the Congo and burden the country with more unsustainable debt.

May 17, 2017  Africa/Global: Whose Energy? http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/clim1705.php
    "We, the undersigned representatives of African civil society, express our deep concern regarding efforts by the European Union and France to hijack the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), an African-owned and African-led initiative endorsed by all 55 African Heads of State to scale up renewable energy on our continent." April 6 statement by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and over 200 civil society networks and groups from 34 African countries.

March 21, 2017  Africa/Global: Scaling Up Solar http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/clim1703.php
    Even in the United States, where action on climate change is under threat from aggressive assault by climate deniers in the Trump administration and Congress, renewable energy is projected to continue to advance rapidly, on the basis of its still growing cost advantages over fossil fuels. According to a report just released by GTM research, the US total solar market, already supplying the largest share of new power production, is poised to triple over the next five years. The prospect for renewable energy to power increased access to electricity in Africa is also dramatic, according to a new report from the Africa Progress Panel.

January 23, 2017  South Africa: State Capture & Energy Policy http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/saf1701.php
    "Eskom, accused of overly cozy ties with the Guptas featured heavily in the report, with 916 mentions. ... it's Eskom's chief executive, Brian Molefe, who comes out looking the worst. According to cell phone records, Molefe had 58 phone calls with the eldest of the Gupta brothers, Ajay Gupta, between August 2015 and March 2016, just before the Guptas purchased South Africa's Optimum coal mine for 2.15 billion rand ($160 million). Eskom, which prepaid the Gupta's Tegeta Exploration and Resources 600 million rand for coal, had been accused of helping to finance the Guptas' coal mine deal through preferential treatment." - Quartz Africa

November 10, 2016  Africa/Global: Climate Threat, Action Tracks http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/ren1611.php
    "Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President's rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change," Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa.

October 4, 2016  West Africa/Europe: Toxic Fuels for African Markets http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/dd1610.php
    European commodity trading companies in Switzerland, using petroleum 'blending' plants in the Netherlands and Belgium, are exporting toxic fuels to Africa in large quantity. "Their business model," according to a new report from the Swiss organization Public Eye, "relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels in order to increase their profits. Using a common industry practice called blending, trading companies mix cheap but toxic intermediate petroleum products to make what the industry calls 'African Quality' fuels."

June 30, 2016  Africa/Global: Air Pollution Threats & Solutions http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/air1606.php
    "Around 6.5 million deaths are attributed each year to poor air quality, making this the worlds fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking. Without changes to the way that the world produces and uses energy, the ruinous toll from air pollution on human life is set to rise. ... Household air pollution, closely linked to a lack of access to modern energy services, causes around half a million premature deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa, where four-fifths of the population rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking, and candles and kerosene lamps are extensively used for indoor lighting." - International Energy Agency (IEA)

June 22, 2016  Africa/Global: "Stop the Bleeding" Updates http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/stb1606.php
    "A new report by Tax Justice Network-Africa and ActionAid says that East African countries (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) are losing approximately $2 billion a year of revenue each year by granting tax incentives to multinational companies. ... According to Yaekob Metena, ActionAid Tanzania's country director, 'Though there have been improvements in recent years in addressing the issue, governments in East Africa continue to give away domestic resources in tax incentives, funds that could pay for the regions' education and health needs and meeting the development objectives.'"

June 13, 2016  Africa/Global: Don't Be a Fossil Fool http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/clim1606.php
    From solar TVs in rural Kenya to modular concrete for windmills in Iowa, the pace of technological advance continues to accelerate, making renewable fuels more and more competitive with fossil fuels. Technology alone will not be sufficient, of course. But these trends, combined with worldwide climate activism and increasing awareness among the public and government policy-makers, are leading even establishment analysts to conclude that, in the words of the Financial Times, "fossil fuel producers face a future of slow and steady decline."

March 9, 2016  Africa/Global: Making Choices on Climate Future http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/clim1603.php
    The choices for the future of the planet's climate are ever more stark in 2016. While the "incumbency" fossil-fuel system (as analyst Jeremy Leggett terms it) remains powerful, the trends favoring a more rapid transition to renewable energy are building much more rapidly than almost anyone expected. Coal is clearly on the way out, with the possible exception of South Africa, which continues to invest in this outdated and deadly technology. And downward cost trends in solar, wind, battery storage, and other renewable technologies continue to accelerate both in developed and in developing countries.

December 10, 2015  Africa/Global: Beyond the Paris Climate Talks http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1512.php
    As the climate talks in Paris draw to a close this week, the countries present are still far from full agreement. Among the latest surprises was the announcement by the Marshall Islands and St. Lucia of a "Coalition of High Ambition Countries," spearheaded by small island states which are the most at risk of being submerged due to climate change. The coalition includes over 100 countries, including the European Union countries and the United States, but notable exceptions are the largest developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

September 30, 2015  Africa/Global: Climate Action Beyond Paris http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1509.php
    "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

August 3, 2015  Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1508.php
    Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries, including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the beginning of the end for coal.

July 6, 2015  Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1507.php
    With less than six months before this year's UN Climate Change conference in Paris, it is clear that commitments by governments to action on climate change will fall short of that necessary to keep global warming under the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, despite recent new pledges by the United States, Brazil, and China (http://tinyurl.com/qhtfdk9; http://tinyurl.com/q8g3srl). But, beyond national governments, there are signs of growing momentum for more rapid "transformational" action. Particularly notable is the recognition that such action must simultaneously address economic inequality and development as well as the natural environment.

Complete listing of bulletins on climate change and the environment, 2003-present