In Talk with US Envoy on Climate, Elumelu Calls for Energy Justice for Africa

•Says Africa’s focus must be on providing energy for its citizens from both traditional and green sources

Peter Uzoho

The Chairman of Heirs Oil and Gas (HHOG) Limited and United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu has advocated for the world to consider Africa’s energy poverty and attendant underdevelopment and allow the continent to use its God-given hydrocarbon resources to industrialise and tackle its social, economic challenges as the developed countries did.

The Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) also opined that Africa’s focus in the current global campaign for energy transition, driven by climate change crisis, must be on providing energy for its citizens from both traditional and green sources.

Elumelu stated this during his conversation with the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Senator John Kerry, along with the Chief Executive Officer of Heirs Oil and Gas (HHOG), Mr. Osa Igiehon, at Transcorp Hilton Abuja at the weekend.

In the discussion entitled, “Africa and Climate Change – A Conversation with US Senator John Kerry towards COP27,” he argued that as the world continues to experience the daily impact of global warming in several parts of the developed nations, with equally harmful, persistent environmental degradation of Africa’s Sahel region, world leaders need to act and not just talk.

Equally, according to him, Africa should not just be in the conversation, but actively set the agenda.

Elumelu pointed out that while Africa’s 3.8 per cent contribution to global emissions was immaterial compared to others, the continent remained the most vulnerable region to the effect of climate change.

Noting that Africa’s rain-fed agriculture focus and a large share of agriculture in her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) add to the continent’s vulnerability, the business mogul said it was clear that climate change not just a threat to the future but also a threat to the present.

Elumelu said, “Global conversations around climate change are geared towards a focus on green and renewable energy. However, Africa’s focus is and should remain, providing energy from both traditional and green sources for its citizens.

“This was the focus of my discussion with Senator John Kerry, Former Secretary of State and Current United States of America’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, along with the CEO of Heirs Oil and Gas (HHOG), Osa Igiehon, at Transcorp Hilton Abuja, yesterday.

“We must be realistic about the inequalities that exist between Africa and the rest of the world. Africa has a significant energy deficit, with a substantial amount of its population living with minimal or no electricity.

“Africa transiting fully to green and renewable energy sources will require considerable investment, and this cannot be at the expense of the drive to urgently address the current energy deficit. Green energy transition must allow room for Africa to power its development and sustain its economic growth. Anything else will be potentially detrimental to us all.

“There must be an equitable transition – that is why I welcome the US’s recent recognition of this concept in its much-awaited Africa strategy announced earlier this month.”

He maintained that Africa’s green revolution requires immediate and significant funding that is larger than the resources available to African governments, which he said, “have so many competing priorities such as poverty, economy, education, healthcare, security, and more – all of which have a direct impact on the livelihood of Africans, especially the youth.”

With this dilemma, according to him, the world must step up and Africa would require far more external support and the same policy flexibility that rich nations claim for themselves in the energy transition.

As the world gathers in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for COP27, Elumelu advised that African nations must engage with the rest of the world, with one voice about the massive support required for this transition, which must be one that is frankly in everyone’s interest.

He explained that the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Sahel sought to address the toxic cocktail of the lack of opportunity and extremism, saying the frightening impact of environmental change had only made this task more difficult.

He added that Africa must do what it could in the present, noting that African governments must provide the enabling environment to promote climate change and incentivise the private sector to own these initiatives and begin implementation in their various organisations.

“At Heirs Holdings Group, with our integrated energy strategy,” Elumelu said they were working to address Africa’s energy needs, saying the company’s energy strategy comprises three pathways.

He listed the pathways an oil and gas pathway (with HHOG already providing up to 12 million standard cubic feet of gas per day into the Eastern Nigeria Domestic gas hub); a gas-fired electricity generation pathway (with Transcorp Group operating an aggregate of approximately 2000 megawatts, some 15 per cent of Nigeria’s total installed electricity generating capacity); and a renewables/green energy pathway currently being developed.

He further said, “We cannot afford to ignore traditional energy sources, to power basic needs, but equally we cannot ignore our responsibility to future generations in developing alternatives.

“We are great supporters of young entrepreneurs – and we are ensuring that we infuse green climate awareness in young African entrepreneurs, through the work of The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF).

“We believe that the current energy transition and future lies in the hands of our private sector, who through their actions or inactions can either perpetuate current ills or catalyse change. 

“Our over 1.2 million TEF entrepreneurship seed capital/knowledge beneficiaries are being encouraged to create businesses that incorporate sustainability into their practices.”

Elumelu said his conversation with Kerry ended with a broad based discourse about opportunities for Africa in the renewables space, and technology-focused initiatives that would aid in addressing and improving access to energy in Africa.

He applauded the United States of America for the inclusive approach to addressing the climate issues, saying it was through such direct engagements that a comprehensive agenda would be developed for faithful implementation across Africa and the wider world.

“Collectively, we can do better.  We must do better.  We have a dwindling window to address, probably the most significant challenge of our time.  Our children deserve and expect better,” he added.

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