IIn his speech at the COP27 world climate conference, Chancellor Scholz renewed Germany’s commitment to the climate targets. He promised that there would be no renaissance in fossil fuels with him and asserted that “the future belongs to wind power, solar energy and green hydrogen”. But does this vision also apply to Africa?
Last year, the federal government pledged to end public funding for fossil energy projects abroad. But Germany’s chance of being a climate pioneer has since been shaken by efforts to fund new gas fields in Senegal, as well as the deal just announced at COP27 to support future Egyptian gas exports to Europe. With this, Germany is breaking its central promise. Financing new gas infrastructure is not in the public interest, either in Africa or in Europe. Because the earth’s atmosphere knows no boundaries. Investments in the expansion of fossil energies, no matter where, are no longer justifiable.
These are undoubtedly tough times that require tough decisions. In Europe, the cost of living continues to rise. Governments are under pressure to guarantee energy security and keep prices low. However, none of this is an excuse to break promises and delay climate action. Famine persists in the Horn of Africa, and record floods have wreaked havoc in Nigeria. Now is the time for political leadership that moves forward resolutely, combining security and justice. Gas and other fossil fuels are the biggest polluters of the last century. Binding African countries and European finance to an energy system based on natural gas ties us to a past that we must leave behind.
First, investments in new gas infrastructure are uneconomical. The industry is already in decline: the International Energy Agency has just declared that the gas age is coming to an end. As investors and lawmakers distance themselves from fossil fuels, expanding gas production would burden African countries with infrastructure that, once built, is already obsolete, adding to the debt burden. Africa would become a junkyard for the dying industries of the past.
Second, gas fails in energy security. It is precisely our dependence on gas and other fossil fuels that has made us so vulnerable to this energy crisis. Not only is gas development inconsistent with the need to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, it will not help weather this winter well. New gas infrastructure takes years to be approved and built – too long to meet our short-term energy needs.
Africa can become the green powerhouse of the world
Third, gas does not offer real development opportunities for African countries. Decades of fossil fuel development in Africa have done little to help the 600 million people south of the Sahara who still lack access to electricity and are trapped in poverty. Development and prosperity for Africa requires access to clean energy, a stable climate and funding for the continent’s booming renewables industry. Financing new gas fields means gas is exported to other countries: the devastating environmental and climate impacts are hitting Africa while foreign energy companies continue to reap profits. New fossil fuels are a bridge to nowhere.
A continent like Africa—rich in the world’s best solar, wind, and tidal power, and brimming with entrepreneurial talent and community spirit—can become the world’s renewable powerhouse. Africa has 39 percent of the world’s renewable energy potential, but receives only two percent of global investment. Germany can lead by example with increased public funding, thereby unlocking additional investment in energy grid improvements and renewable energy technologies that are evolving at the speed of light.
The end of the fossil era is inevitable, but we cannot wait for it to come by itself. We must bring it about now. If Germany signs deals with African governments for new gas infrastructure and fails to honor its commitment to end international fossil fuel financing, it will damage its credibility in international climate policy and disregard the interests of African citizens. This crisis is forcing Germany to keep its promises and help Africa move forward, rather than tying it to the past.