Embrace transition to clean energy

What you need to know:

A Just Energy Transition is a transition towards a sustainable, low carbon, and equitable energy system which is better for people and the planet

Recently, the debate on whether Uganda should leave her oil on the ground and exploit her over 5,000 MW potential of clean energy has dominated the airwaves.

 From the climate activist Dominica Lasota confronting the French President Emmanuel Macron asking him to intervene in stopping East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)  President Museveni authoring an article on how Africa can help solve the energy crisis on Telegram UK, to Climate Activists making it clear, that there is no room for fossil fuels in our future.

It is currently inevitable to ignore these debates, especially on the potential that Uganda could become a global leader in the Just Energy Transition.

President Museveni is not the only head of state to author an article in the international media,   Mr Yemi Osinbajo the, the vice president of Nigeria also published an article on The Economist stating that Africa should define its energy transition but was quick to say they cannot demand more stringent actions that rich nations claim for themselves in the energy transition even when it’s evident that Nigeria has witnessed more negative impacts of oil for over six decades of oil production.

A Just Energy Transition is a transition towards a sustainable, low carbon, and equitable energy system which is better for people and the planet.

 As we continue to ponder which way for Uganda and Africa at large on the energy transition, it’s undeniable fact that the science is very clear there is no more room for fossil fuels, and a global just energy transition to clean energy is taking shape, ignoring these calls is living in denial and denial will come to haunt us even more.

 Indeed, the recently concluded Conference of Parties (COP 26) meeting under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, UK saw more than 39 countries across the world sign a statement committing their nations to take actions that align their international public support towards the clean energy transition and stop supporting new unabated fossil fuels by the end of 2022.

 The commitment by these countries under the COP 26 statement as well as all signatories to the Paris Climate Change Agreement mandates them to ensure that any activities that result in the generation and release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere are limited.

 Africa ought to take these commitments in good faith, it is evident that across Africa, no country has managed to develop using fossil fuels, indeed as was observed by Michael L. Ross, in his book: The Oil Curse and How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations, since 1980, the developing world has become wealthier, more democratic, and more peaceful and yet this is only true for countries without oil.

The oil states scattered across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia are no wealthier, or more democratic or peaceful than they were three decades ago. Some are worse off while many oil producers like Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Nigeria, Sudan, and Iraq have been scarred by decades of civil wars.’

 The oil keeps resulting in patronage, grand corruption, conflicts, environmental degradation, the entrenchment of inequality, and above all, rights violations.

 Today some of these impacts are already happening in Uganda even before the first oil hits the market. Since 2006 when oil was discovered, the sector has been characterised by serious socioeconomic impacts that range from land grabbing, displacement, loss of livelihoods, and increasing poverty to gender impacts, militarisation, and growing instability as already witnessed during the land acquisition process for the oil refinery, Kabaale Airport, Tilenga Oil project and now the EACOP. It’s also clear that the climate change impacts keep worsening day by day and action needs to be taken.

 In terms of climate change, science is clear, we need to transition and the transition needs to happen soon. For instance, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report for 2022 confirms that the climate crisis disproportionately affects African countries. It further demonstrates that climate impacts will worsen sooner than previously predicted and that worldwide action is more urgent than previously assessed.

 The earlier 2020 IPCC report further stressed that there is an urgent need for countries to prioritise the fight against climate change and states that many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years and some of the changes already set in motion such as continued sea-level rise are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years

 These reports propose the need for strong and sustained reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases to help bring benefits to air quality and mitigate climate change.

With the available scientific evidence and the global shift into clean energy, Uganda cannot afford to be left behind, live in denial, and invest in diminishing industry which will leave our beautiful country with stranded assets that will push Uganda into a debt trap and destroy our environment

 It’s critical for the government, development partners, and oil companies to stop the witch hunt on the climate activist, and instead, listen to the message in their call and transition to clean energy.

Mr Samuel Aede

Executive coordinator, Environment Governance Institute Uganda.