Transition to a green economy
Africa eyes energy transformation as it strives to balance economic growth and climate change mitigation
By Ge Lijun  ·  2022-02-10  ·   Source: ChinAfrica


Symposium Following the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC is held in Beijing on January 18 (COURTESY)

As part of the South-South cooperation on climate change between China and Burkina Faso, an agreement to develop a 4-mw solar power plant in Burkina Faso was signed toward the end of 2021. Once completed, the project will meet the energy needs of around 20,000 local residents.

As China has pledged to not develop any new coal-fired power plant projects overseas as part of its climate commitments, the focus of China-Africa energy cooperation is shifting to renewable sources. According to the declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in late November 2021, China and Africa have decided to establish a China-Africa partnership of strategic cooperation of the new era for the fight against climate change.

Climate change and its consequences constitute a humanitarian emergency and are one of the world’s most pressing concerns today. “In the face of these challenges, the transformation of our traditional economies to a green economy is of great significance,” Abdallah Abdillahi Miguil, Acting Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps and Djibouti’s Ambassador to China, said at the Symposium Following the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC held in Beijing on January 18.

A fruitful collaboration

According to the United Nations, 568 million people in Africa, or nearly a half of the population in the continent, lack access to electricity. There appears to be a conflict between the continent’s energy crisis and the worldwide movement toward carbon neutrality, with the only option being to stay in tune with global advancements through collaboration and innovation.

“We do not want climate change initiatives to be an impediment to Africa’s development. To solve the energy problems, we are open to technological development and information sharing. However, the absence of energy in our countries should not prohibit us from following global trends. As a result, we will endeavor to adjust our requirements to the changing environment,” Miguil told ChinAfrica.

In fact, China strongly supports Africa’s sustainable development. It has carried out more than 100 clean energy and green development projects under FOCAC to support African countries’ efforts to better utilize renewable energy such as solar, hydro, wind and biogas.

Prior to the FOCAC conference, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment had signed 15 cooperation documents with African countries, including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Benin, Madagascar, Cameroon and Uganda, among others, aiming to improve their capacity to combat climate change by providing them with weather satellite receiving stations, photovoltaic power plants, household electrical system, solar street lights, energy efficient air conditioners and construction of low-carbon demonstration areas. The ministry has also provided training for more than 400 young people from about 30 African countries.

China has promoted creative, coordinated, green, open, and shared sustainable development in recent years. “We can’t confine ecology to just one aspect of energy conservation and low carbon emissions. We must meet the objectives of economic and social growth as well as environmental conservation. It’s a win-win scenario,” Gao Jian, Vice Director of the National Development and Reform Commission’s International Cooperation Department, said. China can share its experiences with African nations, ranging from high-level policy design to particular project launches, such as the 10 action plans to attain peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, he claimed.

Focus on implementation

A more active connection between African nations and their partners, including a tripartite collaboration between Africa, China, and the UN institutions, as well as a successful transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy are Africa’s top priorities in the face of the global climate issue. “There is a need to accelerate innovation via various initiatives so that the green economy may become a reality in Africa rather than just a notion. Implemented programs enable Africa to combat global warming and desertification, as well as empower its young people to assume ownership of policy in this field,” Miguil said.

The declaration sets the course for future China-Africa cooperation. According to the document, the two sides intend to intensify cooperation in many areas, including clean energy, the use of aviation and space technologies to combat climate change, agriculture, forestry, oceans, low-carbon infrastructure, weather monitoring, forecasting and warning, environmental monitoring, and disaster prevention and mitigation, etc. “We plan to develop pragmatic cooperation projects to address the climate challenge together,” said Chen Zhihua, Director of the Division of International Cooperation and Exchanges of the Department of Climate Change at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China.

According to Chen, in the short term, China and African countries will work to accelerate the implementation of projects agreed upon under the South-South cooperation and tripartite cooperation on climate change, finalize the cooperation documents for projects under discussion, promote the production, shipment and delivery of materials and equipment under the assistance, and push forward the construction of low-emission demonstration areas. The ministry will also use technological achievements such as the high-resolution earth observation system, the BeiDou satellite navigation system, and the FengYun weather satellite to intensify Sino-African technological cooperation in disaster prevention and adaption to climate change in order to build Africa’s resilience and capacity in this area, he continued.

Solar, wind, and thermal energy resources are abundant in many African countries. “In the long run, we will design new South-South cooperation projects on climate change based on the national conditions of the countries concerned to assist African countries in optimizing the energy mix and upgrading the industrial base,” Chen said, adding that China will increase its investment in Africa in low-emission projects, including renewable energy from photovoltaic and wind power and energy saving technologies.

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