By Desmond Davies, London Bureau
London, Nov. 8, GNA – About 11,000 country delegates are in Germany for the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) UN climate talks, which many believe will be crucial for Africa.
Not surprisingly, the top five delegations come from Africa: Cote d’Ivoire (493), Guinea (398), the Democratic Republic of Congo (340), Congo (308) and Morocco (253).
The gathering, which will go on until November 17, has already attracted a lot of interest following the release of a US government policy paper arguing in favour of using coal and other fossil fuels and nuclear power for “climate mitigation”.
For African countries, the use of focal to alleviate the continent’s appalling electricity generation is crucial.
The US presentation, according to the New York Times, (NYT) will be made on November 13 at COP23, to be chaired by Fiji in Bonn.
According to the NYT, part of the presentation argues: “As the world seeks to reduce emissions while promoting economic prosperity, fossil fuels will continue to play a central role in the energy mix.”
The argument for using coal to provide electricity to the 600 million Africans who do not have access to it has been gaining momentum.
This has been accelerated by US President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this year to allow the Treasury to fund multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank to help developing countries use coal efficiently and cleanly for power generation that will aid their development.
Although President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative was aimed at doing this, his administration refused to back energy projects overseas that used coal, in response to criticism from climate change activists.
But African governments have argued that with the continent’s huge coal reserves of over 50 billion tons, it would make sense to use the natural resource to generate much needed power for development.
They also point out that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has improved greatly so that coal can be used to generate power without increasing carbon emissions.
The former Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella, recently told the GNA, on the issue if coal use on the continent: “Africa should look at every solution to generate energy.
“You can’t discriminate against Africa now when it comes to the use of coal for its development.
“You have to balance the various interests.”
Regarding the US discussion paper for COP23, a White House statement said: “This discussion is a follow up to the administration’s success at the G20, where the United States expressed its support for helping countries meet their climate objectives through the use of cleaner and more efficient fossil fuels and other clean energy technologies.
“It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean.
“Through innovation, the United States continues to be a global leader in cutting carbon emissions,” the statement added.
One of the speakers on the panel to discuss the US policy paper will be Barry K. Worthington, Executive Director of the US Energy Association, who said that fossil fuels would still be meeting more than 40 per cent of global energy demand by 2050.
He said there was “no credible projection” to show otherwise, according to the NYT.
“The reality of it is that, the world is going to continue to use fossil fuels, and if I can throw myself on the hand grenade to help people realise this, I’m willing to do it.”
Climate change activists will challenge the US position but it is expected that African countries will support responsible coal use for power generation.
These countries see the increased use of coal as part of achieving certain aspects of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the end of October, the World Coal Association (WCA) held a one day forum in London that was attended by over 100 experts and stakeholders from around the world, including Africa and UN Agencies.
The forum discussed the role of coal in achieving the SDGS – with specific focus on SDG7, SDG8 and SDG13, which deal with access to affordable, reliable and energy; sustainable economic growth, employment and work for all; and achieving global climate goals using coal.
Benjamin Sporton, Chief Executive of the WCA, said: “There is no doubt that coal has a crucial role to play in the achievement of the SDGs.
“With millions of people dependent on coal for electricity, infrastructure and employment, coal’s role continues to be crucial.”
Today, coal provides 41 per cent of global electricity, 75 per cent of the world’s steel and 85 per cent of the world’s concrete, according to the WCA.
The WCA forum agreed that coal “is and will continue to play a vital role in future energy and industrial processes”.
It also discussed action needed to ensure that “this role is aligned with the SDGs”.
This debate is expected be taken further at the ongoing COP23.