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Electricity access and gas-powered industrialisation throughout Africa should be prioritised and can be achieved with negligible impact to its share of global emissions, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

About 600-million people on the continent lack access to electricity while demand is expected to grow in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, according to the IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook 2022. The home of one-fifth of the world’s population accounts for less than 3% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to date.   

“Bringing access to modern energy for all Africans calls for investment of $25bn per year — a sum equivalent to the cost of building just one liquefied natural gas terminal,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in the report. “I find it profoundly unjust that Africa, the continent that has contributed the least to global warming, is the one bearing the brunt of the most severe climate impacts.”

Climate change, from desertification to flooding, has been hitting the continent at a faster rate than the rest of the world. The global pandemic also helped erode recent progress to improve universal access, with 4% more people living without electricity in 2021 than in 2019, according to the report. 

Africa holds 60% of the best solar resources throughout the world, while it only makes up 1% of installed photovoltaic capacity, the study showed. Renewable technologies could be expanded rapidly, accounting for more than 80% of new power capacity to 2030. 

Industrialisation will drive energy demand, requiring the expanded use of natural gas for manufacturing fertiliser, steel and cement, according to the outlook. The carbon dioxide emissions from gas resources over the next 30 years would bring Africa’s share of global emissions “to a mere 3.5%”, and won’t exceed 4% by 2050, regardless of the scenario, it said. Production of the fossil fuel, with oil, will shift to meet mostly domestic demand.

The COP27 Climate Change Conference hosted by Egypt later this year will provide a “crucial platform” for African leaders to drive the needed changes, the IEA said. 

“This decade is critical, not only for global climate action, but also for the foundational investments that will allow Africa — home to the world’s youngest population — to flourish.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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