Africa is a continent that is speedily on the rise. Much of its dark years were spent not just under leaders that lacked vision but under the watchful eyes of a docile population.Now development is taking over the entire continent; from Nigeria to Kenya, Tunisia to Zimbabwe the buzz is easily felt across the world.The continent has never been more fertile for investors and they are more than happy to invest. Boasting about 14% of the global population, you can’t fault any investors choice of Africa.
But then, there’s a challenge, one that makes all these bright prospects appear gloomy: Climate Change. It’s a global threat that respects neither developed or developing countries and demands all the attention it can get now. The fact is that Africa contributes just 3% of the total global emissions of greenhouse gases(GHGs) but in the climate’s unjust way of reacting, it neither considers who pollutes most nor who is undeservedly vulnerable, it just lets the vulnerable countries bear the consequences of the unmitigated acts of developed countries.
Now, the bright developmental prospects of Africa and the increasing faith in its booming economy means that the world will, in a couple of years, see an Africa that will more than quadruple its current emissions and the reasons are simple. First, the structures that drive Africa’s economic rise are majorly things that will lead the continent into more pollution.
For instance, in my country Nigeria, the economy is at least 70% based on oil. Few weeks of artificial fuel scarcity experienced in the country recently almost brought the economy to a halt. Radio stations closed down for transmission unusually early and people were forced to trek long distances owing to the hike in price of fuel. That shows how much central oil is to the Nigerian economy. A peep at Libya tells you more of the same.And obviously, such economies will always contribute more emissions. In fact, Nigeria contributes about 75% of Africa’s GHGs emission and this, is with her very small level of industrial development and oil explorations. Nigeria has no functional oil refinery which means her oil are not refined at home.
Imagine then, what could be with a more industrialized Nigeria- which is very likely in a few years- and one which refines her oil at home. What could also be if Nigeria decides to diversify her priority explorations by increasing her mining of coal which has a huge deposit in her eastern city of Enugu. Considering a population that is currently at 170,000,0000 people and ever-increasing, it will certainly skyrocket her emissions in a few years.
At the recently concluded Global Youth Summit 2015 in Germany where I was Nigeria’s youth representative, I made it clear at one of the plenary sessions that the developed economies must make great sacrifices if Africa and other emerging economies must develop in a green way.The easy logic is this, the big economies polluted their way to the top and now Africa has the chance, why not?.It’s easy to see why the big economies have a big role to play if Africa ever we will adopt a green way of development. The continent has to be not just persuaded, but heavily compensated both in cash and kind.
How do you tell Nigeria, whose joy at any discovery of a new oil field in the country is unspeakable, to stop exploring new oil grounds or to reduce the licensing of new oil firms? when in fact, this sector not just employs many but also pays big.
Also, how will you tell South Africa to reduce their mining or stop exploring new grounds when in fact the mine industry employs-as of 2007- about 500,000 of her labour force.
If we take to the path of compensation, paying mineral or oil rich African countries for letting their resources remaining underground and unexplored, will you also pay for the people the exploration of this new grounds could have employed? Can you compensate for the level of development these countries would likely attain with new explorations?
Again, assuming Nigeria accepts to follow the green way of development, which “Green industry” pays as much as the oil ones does? Are there readily available models of a successful green economy?
I raised these questions at the summit in Germany and the answers were not easily forthcoming.
In truth, the challenge of climate change is very complicated and talks about it probably being the collapse of western civilization are becoming increasingly valid. But could it be the start of Africa’s resurgent civilization? It’s difficult, perhaps not impossible but the developed countries must be ready to make some sacrifices including counting their financial loses.
They should be apolitically committed to this cause and truly realize that it’s a global threat of which they are the major culprits.
As the G7 meeting continues in Germany, some of the G7 presidents must stop pretending as though they are committed to this cause, they must now start acting as the threat is no longer far away. No matter the economic status and political ego of the G7 countries, the focus is on Africa and honesty is required.
We better get it right now or live to bite our fingers when Africa accelerates in its next step of development which is clearly imminent.
Chiagozie Udeh is a climate activist,a radio Host and a climate tracker for COP21.