BY NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
Government leaders often ask me how they can achieve development goals, such as expanding energy access, while tackling climate change. Some say, “Shouldn’t we use our coal resources to give people electricity first, then go low-carbon later?”
The answer is no. A mounting body of evidence shows that development and climate action go hand-in-hand. In fact, research from The New Climate Economy shows that bold action on climate could deliver $26trillion in economic benefits globally between now and 2030. With such unequivocal evidence, the question shifts to “how?”
This week, representatives from government, business and civil society are gathering at the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s High-Level Assembly to discuss how carbon pricing can be used to shift investments towards low-carbon and climate-resilient projects, and how carbon pricing can address broader social concerns.
These issues are salient across the world, in developed and developing countries alike. But developed countries need to set the example, by moving faster and quicker on carbon pricing. That said, African countries can benefit, too. Carbon pricing offers African economies, in particular, a powerful vehicle for delivering on other social and economic priorities. I urge African countries to focus on three priorities, and carbon pricing plays a key role in each of them.
First, deliver electricity to those without it. In remote areas of Africa, installing standalone renewables (such as solar home systems) can provide electricity more quickly than connecting to the traditional grid. With new battery technology and mini-grid systems, decentralised renewables can deliver reliable energy to whole communities at a time, helping to grow inclusive, rural economies. At the same time, building utility-scale renewable power plants is now cheaper than building coal plants in most regions. After factoring in the health costs of air pollution, the calculus tips further towards renewables.
Africa’s wealth of solar, wind and geothermal resources gives us a big natural advantage. And while we need to consider a carefully planned transition to rely on these abundant resources, we must phase out fossil fuel subsidies and begin pricing pollution, to remove the man-made disadvantage currently baked into the system.
Second, prioritise resilient infrastructure. Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar recently brought home the terrible tragedies that more frequent, more intense storms can cause. The Red Cross estimates Cyclone Idai damaged or destroyed up to 90 per cent of the city of Beira. For the sake of our lives and our livelihoods, Africa’s new infrastructure, including early warning systems, must be able to withstand a changing climate.
In our need lies our opportunity. The world is expected to invest $90trillion in infrastructure by 2030, with most of the growth in emerging and developing economies. Since Africa is constructing much of our infrastructure now, we have the chance to make it sustainable, efficient and resilient from the start, leapfrogging over the challenges other countries face as they upgrade dirty and dated infrastructure.
To finance this need, carbon pricing programmes offer an important avenue for generating revenues governments can invest in resilient infrastructure. For instance, Colombia introduced a carbon tax in 2017, generating $127million that year. The government will use the revenues to support essential environmental and rural development projects.
Third, create the conditions for the right investments. A shrinking oil market will deliver shrinking revenues for fossil-fuel rich economies relying on oil exports for growth. As more and more countries and car manufacturers commit to phase out internal combustion engines and switch to electric vehicles, the reality is that their assets could soon be stranded. India and France will end sales of non-electric cars by 2030 and 2040 respectively. Volvo aims for 50 per cent electric sales by 2025, and Volkswagen will stop producing petrol and diesel vehicles in 2026.
As markets shift, so must Africa. Carbon pricing signals the direction of that shift, towards cleaner 21st century technologies and industries, providing companies and investors with strong financial incentives. Rolling back fossil fuel subsidies, which artificially prop up outdated energy technologies, is also essential to creating the conditions for growing sustainable, resilient economies.
African countries need both domestic and external investment, public and private, to transition quickly to low-carbon, resilient economies. The private sector is already helping to shape a cleaner, more productive future. Blended finance — a mix of public and private investment — is also ramping up. For example, the African Development Bank recently invested $25million in a renewable energy equity fund that plans to add 533 megawatts of electricity across sub-Saharan Africa. This initial public investment is expected to attract private investors to commit a further $60million to $75million, potentially tripling the level of investment.
According to the World Bank, existing carbon price programmes around the world generated about $33billion in 2017. Across the board, revenues from carbon prices can help fund governments’ development priorities. More broadly, carbon pricing shapes decision making well beyond any government’s purview.
There are many specific development priorities that Africa must achieve to improve the lives of our people today and in the future. Carbon pricing can facilitate the delivery of all these objectives. Putting carbon pricing policies in place now can ensure that African countries are full participants in and drivers of the world’s emerging new climate economy.
Okonjo-Iweala is Co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate
Adesanmi: The Music May Have Stopped, But The Dance Must Go On
The tragic crash of Africa’s best and one of the world’s leading airlines, Ethiopian airline last week must be seen as one of the greatest air tragedies in Africa in particular and the world at large. May God grant eternal peace to the all the departed and console the families.
The news that Professor Pius Adesanmi was one of the passengers on the ill-fated flights made the accident even more personal to us in Nigeria and some of us who knew him personally. In real life, I did not know Pius that well because we only met on two different occasions.
I first met him on October 1, at the Covenant Church Headquarters when he and I appeared as speakers at the lecture series. At that event, it was he who approached me, bowed and shook my hand vigorously. I am Pius, Pius Adesanmi. He was pugnacious yet gregarious, in-your face, yet polite. Unfortunately, I had not heard his name before and was struggling to catch up with him warmth, charm and broad smiles. He showered encomiums on me, prefixing it all with his Catholic identities. He told me that he had been an altar boy, came from a strict Catholic family, which was closely related to Cardinal Onaiyekan.
He then went on to talk to me about how much he had been influenced by my writings. We exchanged contacts and he did promise that he would be happy to visit me in Sokoto during one of his home visits. We parted and did not catch up again because after the lectures, I had to head back to Abuja that same evening.
We exchanged one or two emails during the course of the year. He told me that he had some ideas and programmes that he believed could help some of our Universities and hoped that through me he might link up with the Catholic University in Abuja. We agreed to stay in touch. Somehow, I went quiet and I did not hear from him again.
We had had our own views about the policy direction of our country. I recall reading his comments on my views about where our country was going and the reservations I had expressed about the hazy trajectory of the anti corruption war. Like many others who came after me with their pens, I decided to stay quiet in part because I did not want our differences in political views to interfere with our budding friendship. When he did not respond to my email correspondence, I more or less decided to give him some space.
I think last year or so, I stumbled on the news that he had been involved in a car accident while on a trip home. I sent him a mail to express my sympathies and wished him well. Strange enough, he still did not respond. That’s where our relationship stood before this tragedy occurred. On Sunday, March 10th, I had stopped to buy a newspaper and ended up with the Tribune. I had no idea that Pius had become a columnist for the paper. When I read his column that Sunday, I took notice of that fact that his frustration had reached a crescendo.
I had to read over and over again, the last paragraph of that piece in which he stated that a thousand years from now, he hoped that in the course of the excavation of who Nigerians were, they would at least discover fragments of his writings which would point to the fact that not all Nigerians agreed to live as slaves. When, like millions of others, I woke up to the news that he had died in that plane crash, it became clear that those words had become his prophetic epitaph.
To think about Pius is to think about Literature and its contributions to society. Art and Literature cast both present and future often in the face of Janus, looking both backward and forward. The challenge for society often is to find the balance. Decaying social conditions often provide a rich opportunity for writers. The challenge for the writer is how to turn that skill into a tool for development and progress. Often, because the writer is considered a critic, we often mistakenly think that they cannot offer a roadmap for their societies.
My lecture at the 80th birthday of Wole Soyinka was titled, 80 Years of Genius and Prophetic Outrage. The highpoint of the lecture for me was the attempt to interrogate the notion of art as an imitation of life. My argument was that so far, our writers have focused on art as an imitation of life. This is why we can often recognise the various characters in our daily life or environment. Somehow though, we often do not wish to be like those who read about. When, on other hand, life imitates art, then, we find ourselves trying to model ourselves after some of the characters. This for me was the real challenge.
So far, there is a sense in which our writers have pandered to the weak social fabric of our society to create their stories. The result is that the average Nigerian novel set in Nigeria will hardly rise beyond the foibles of the Nigerian society. Look no further than Nollywood! The result is that we have difficulties finding inspirations from what we read or view. Often cynicism conquers hope and faith. A writer is in a sense a prophet, but not every prophesy is necessary an announcement of doom.
The challenge now as I concluded is for Nigerian writers to focus more on life imitating art. Like many of his admirers, Pius celebrated the first coming of President Buhari as the dawn of the messiah. However, his messianism soon fumbled and the result was that he soon found himself at the opposite end of the same spectrum. Writers must write to raise the hopes of their people and project a future that looms in the horizon. Professor Adesanmi has left us a great treasure trove of fine writing which will outlive him. I pray that God grants him eternal peace. For the Catholic that he was, I have celebrated Mass for his intentions and I am sure he could not have asked for more from me.
As for the future of our country, one would wish that the sacrifices of people like Pius would encourage us to renew our energies and commitment to a good society. We must look beyond the current crop of opportunists who are ready to sacrifice this nation to the gods of their ambitions. Pius must live on beyond our hearts. It is my hope that his writings will become the subject of further interrogation within the academic circles. The music may have stopped, but I am sure that the dance must go on and on.
The late Vaclav Havel, one of Europe’s greatest writers both former President of Czechoslovakia and later first President of Czech republic said: I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning. You either have it or you don’t, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you. Life without hope is an empty, boring, and useless. I cannot imagine that I could strive for something if I did not carry hope in me. I am thankful to God for this gift. It is as big as life itself.
Kukah is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto