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Africa offers solutions for global net zero ambitions-Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

For African countries to attain middle-income status, societal and individual prosperity for its people, the issue of energy poverty has to be tackled headlong and reflected in the global energy transition conversations, says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

To achieve this, Vice President outlined specific pathways that will lead to climate-positive economic growth in the continent and at the same time led to the realization of the global net-zero emissions targets.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande says this was one of the major highlights of Prof. Osinbajo’s Special Public Lecture on Monday at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA where he spoke on the specific title “Energy Transition in Africa.”

Emphasizing the continent’s potential, the VP said, “Africa’s endowments, renewable energy, natural resources and a young workforce, present a compelling set of circumstances for several pathways to climate-positive growth.”

 “Low emissions consumption and production, the point being that Africa can, instead of going the carbon-intensive path to providing energy, goods and services for its own needs, takes full advantage of green technologies and practices. There is the distinct advantage that Africa can actually pursue a green course of growth without worrying about costly legacy infrastructure.

 “The second pathway is that having recognized the fact that global zero carbon ambitions cannot be realized without intentional carbon removal technologies and practices, Africa can ramp up her own potential to do this at scale through a combination of planned land use and ecosystem management, and investment in emerging engineered removal technologies.  Already Africa’s large carbon sinks, currently store years of global emissions and the abundant supply of unused agricultural waste is available as biomass for clean energy production and soil improvement.”

“The third pathway is that, with its abundant reserves of renewable energy and raw materials, Africa can become a hugely competitive green manufacturing and energy hub for the world that could also accelerate the greening of global industry. Thus, the paradox of an energy-poor continent becoming the green industrial powerhouse of the world is easily resolvable and must be,” the VP said.

He however proposed that the developed world change its perception of Africa, and not see the continent merely as a victim but as a solution in the climate change conversations and the attainment of the global net zero targets by 2050-2060.

Energy poverty

On energy poverty, Prof. Osinbajo argued that it can only be resolved “if there is a significant investment in renewable energy, and that can only happen if there is demand for the energy.

On Africa’s dependence on its oil and gas resources, the Vice President noted that “the use of gas as a transition fuel will not significantly derail the continent’s commitment to carbon-negative growth.

He said Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan attempts to chart an energy transition pathway which has as its bedrock, the development of renewable energy, specifically solar.

“The plan is to develop 250 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2060. The plan outlines our decarbonisation strategies in the areas of power, oil and gas transportation, etc. It also mitigates against medium to long-term job losses in an industry that has dominated the economy for decades.

“It recommends the role of gas as a transition fuel, to balance large influxes of solar power on the grid, its use as a cheaper, and relatively clean option for base load power for industry, as we watch the cost of solar batteries plunge.

“There are also practical ways in which gas, especially propane, will bridge the gap before the full use of renewables is commercially practical. To illustrate the point practically, recently some discussions have been taking place about the decommissioning of industrial scale diesel and petrol generators used at base stations of telecommunication companies in Nigeria,” he explained.

Earlier, Prof. Beth Winkelstein, Interim Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, said the planet is facing an “existential struggle against climate change for the earth and the people in it.

“Like many countries including the United States, Nigeria is challenged by competing and sometimes conflicting interests and its development prospects are complex. Nigeria holds amongst the continent’s largest proven oil reserves and faces a potentially perilous future of climate-induced sea level rise and drought. In short, global progress in the battle against climate change needs Nigeria’s partnership and participation,” Prof. Tukufu Zuberi said.

Also, Prof. Tukufu Zuberi of the Africana Centre spoke about the relationship between the University and Nigeria, thanking the Vice President for honoring the institution’s invitation.

He said the lecture series was part of efforts to correct the negative perceptions about Africa.

After the lecture, Prof. Wale Adebanwi, the Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania led an interactive session with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Writing by Annabel Nwachukwu