What African civil societies think of renewable energy targets, climate justice

African Civil Society Organisations have issued a hard-hitting five-point statement on energy demands in Africa during the ongoing COP28 meeting in Dubai.

They are now demanding equity, transparency, human rights in the energy industry, an end to fossil fuel use, and historical responsibility by the developed world.

Delegations from the Global South are, at the same time, outraged by the absence of provisions on energy access in the work programme on just transitions draft decision released at the talks.

The statement was delivered to negotiators through Ephraim Shitima, chairman of the Africa Group of Negotiators, who received the targets on Monday, December 4.

Organisations argue that the climate change crisis is both a development and energy issue in Africa, and that establishing a decision on energy access within the just transition work stream is not an option.

Additionally, the groups emphasise that support for the continent to transition to renewable energy must be centred on the decision of the just transition if this is to guarantee justice for Africans.

One of the priorities for the continent at COP28 was to secure deals that would triple investments in renewable energy after the Africa Climate Summit failed to deliver ambitious outcomes on the same.

At the summit, renewable energy investments received largely lukewarm attention as the event hosted by Kenya rallied leaders behind the so-called green investments, namely carbon markets, as the solution to emissions that fossil fuels have caused.

In the statement, the CSOs are demanding adherence to human rights and protection of workers, communities, and ecosystems. They also want fair and transparent processes that provide opportunities for African countries to be at the centre of energy development decision-making on energy development, accountability, transparency, and that involvement of stakeholders in all processes must be prioritised.

The groups are calling for the scale-up of renewable energy to more than 15,000 GW in 2030 or an average of 1,500 GW annually to keep the 1.5°C temperature target within reach.

According to the movement, increased political support for and shift in global policy and investment in renewables is critical in the quest to attain renewable energy targets.

According to them, Africa needs a rapid roll-out of people-centred, environmentally and socially appropriate renewable energy on the continent as the solution to the climate crisis, energy poverty and an enabler to Africa's development.

For years now, the African civil society movement has been calling for the immediate stop to misaligned climate support to the continent. Instead, they have been asking for the provision of genuine support from historical polluters to limit global temperature rise and to make it possible for the world to avert a catastrophic future.

Leaders from various African organisations emphasised the urgent need for a shift towards renewable energy to meet the continent's energy needs.

Mr Amos Wemanya, lead of Just Transitions at Power Shift Africa, said renewable energy deployment is not just an aspiration but a necessity. "Renewable energy today offers a viable, cost-effective pathway for meeting Africa's energy needs," he said.

Mr Wemanya stressed the importance of respecting human rights and the rights of indigenous people in the process, stating, "There is no climate justice without human rights. The fossil industry needs to be made to pay for the harms they have and continue to cause in African communities."

Echoing the sentiment, Janet Milongo, senior officer at the Global Platform of Action, declared that COP28 must be the catalyst for transforming Africa's energy system. Milongo called for a sincere commitment to a dignified energy future for Africa by prioritising the needs of the African people.

Muhammed Lamin Saidykh, head of Building Power at CAN-International, expressed concern about Western-driven climate solutions in Africa and called for a reshaping of the agenda with the involvement of African experts. "We should prioritise Africa's interests and that is to transition away from fossil fuels in a just and equitable manner," he said.

Highlighting the multifaceted importance of renewable energy, Safiatou Nana, regional coordinator at Climate Action Network Africa, stated, "Renewable energy is not only a matter of environmental necessity. It is a cornerstone of social and climate justice and economic opportunity for Africa." Nana called for concrete, actionable commitments for locally-led 100 per cent renewable energies for Africa by 2050.