HomeRegional NewsAfricaFinding workable solutions for Africa to address climate change

Finding workable solutions for Africa to address climate change

Energy experts from a variety of sectors gathered on the Enlit Africa digital event roundtable Heading to COP26 to discuss what they want should happen at the UN Climate Change meeting.

Moderated by Dr Roland Nkwain Ngam programme manager: socio-ecological justice at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, the session delved into what is and could be.

Patrick Tonui, head of policy and regional strategy for GOGLA, which works in the off-grid solar space, says they are doing a lot of work on innovating green solutions that help to deliver universal energy access in line with SDG7. 

Tonui shares his views: “As we look to COP26 we do see that tension between the fact that you have a lot of countries and regions that still struggle with energy access and inclusive development and how to balance that with the goal of reducing emissions and dealing with climate challenge. What we’re hoping and expecting is essentially a conversation around sustainable development.”

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“The conversation shouldn’t be about leaving people behind but how to deliver energy access in a sustainable manner and helping countries to reach their NDCs,” said Tonui who hopes COP26 recognises that increase in investment in technologies that handle emissions is very necessary.

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Barbara O’Neill of NREL, representing the Global Power System Consortium, says they have noticed “amazing legislative targets” which simply are not being put into action.

What has been of particular interest to her was how the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to focus on one issue. “Every country was affected by the pandemic, every country had to realise ‘this is catastrophic’. So is climate change.

“This is going to feel like a dress rehearsal, a cakewalk compared to what we are going to deal with when our coastlines are eroded and we have to figure out what to do with people who are displaced,” says O’Neill. She hopes talks at COP26 will focus funding back onto climate mitigation and adaption needs.

Joan Chahenza of AMDA says they realise that only about 13% of the DFI funding committed to the minigrid sector in Africa has been disbursed over the past two years for a variety of reasons. “The sector is heavily equity financed, and we really need those subsidies and grants.

“Minigrids can offer options for a lot of Sub-Saharan Africa households. The World Bank says 490 million people need energy access at a cost of billions. It is only fair to include this in the NDCs of governments and give decentralised energy the space it deserves,” explains Chahenza.

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Realising commitments in a meaningful way

According to Tonui, GOGLA has also noticed that a huge percentage of the funding promised by UK-based companies and organisations has dried up. “When we looked at a lot of our members who wanted to raise funding from the traditional impact funders, it was very clear those were delayed, and the level of investment wasn’t as high as it used to be, comparing year on year.”

While he believes the level of interest in climate change funding going into COP26 is high, he also hopes future commitments made will be realised in a meaningful way.

Vally Padayachee, AMEU strategic advisor, says they are aligning their own vision with government initiatives when it comes to expectations out of COP26. Pursuant to encouraging a just energy transition, the AMEU is focusing on pursuing a low carbon economy “in a manner that does not impede socio-economic development but does result in an increase in sustainable jobs”.

“It is not a sudden shift, but occurs in a phased manner over time,” said Padayachee.

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Finding solutions for Africa

Padayachee said SA’s utility Eskom admits to being one of the continent’s biggest air polluters but hopes the focus at COP26 will be less on the problem and more on finding solutions.

“Maybe the polluter gets assistance… we want lots more international finance flows of investment into training and development of skills. We want to make sure the voices of all stakeholders inform the planning of a just transition. We need to ensure that climate justice issues relating to adaptation are featured prominently.”

Tonui pointed out commitments aren’t needed just for immediate concerns, but consistent funding year on year: “A lot of the tension countries have around reducing carbon emissions is a fear it could hurt their development goals… so incentivise the things that replace carbon-emitting technologies and still allow us as a global community to realise our goals and reduce emissions and provide financing to that.” ESI

Log into the recorded COP26 roundtable discussion to hear the panellists talk about the effect of the African free trade agreement on energy systems, how empowering women to take charge of energy systems changes how communities access energy and the point of decentralisation.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.