Letters

How climate change hits standard of living

glasgow

World leaders at the recently concluded climate summit in Glasgow. PHOTO | PSCU

Summary

  • The mood music coming out of the recently held COP26 climate change conference makes it pretty clear that Africa will struggle to exploit its resources.
  • Despite the fact that Africa produces just four percent of the world’s carbon emissions, the continent may now have to “phase down” its industrial revolution.

Although fossil fuels are now considered public enemy number one, much of the world has a great deal to be thankful for, as a result of having this most ancient resource within the earth.

For example, in the period since the UK’s industrial revolution started in 1750 and today, its GDP has grown 50 times. Each generation of Britons since 1750 has been a third better off than the one before it. Coal, and later oil, made this possible, putting food on people’s plates and improving health, longevity, and prosperity for the many.

Kenya and several other States in Africa have significant deposits of gas and other natural resources that could have a similar transformational effect for the continent.

But the mood music coming out of the recently held COP26 climate change conference makes it pretty clear that Africa will struggle to exploit its resources and make its people anything like 50 times better off.

Despite the fact that Africa produces just four percent of the world’s carbon emissions, the continent may now have to, in the words of COP, “phase down” its industrial revolution because of the need to clean up the consequences of the global north’s economic boom.

Attracting investment in fossil fuels will be difficult and costly from global capital markets that are led by an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) agenda. Africa’s improved standard of living — more food, more people connected to uninterrupted electricity, more access to finance, better-paid jobs — may well remain underground, literally. Similar headwinds are blowing from COP26 to challenge Africa’s agricultural revolution, as well.

Africa can definitely prosper from the climate emergency. For example, by attracting investment in renewable energy projects to make the most of the abundance of sun and wind in many parts of the continent.

But it would be preferable if Africa could be simultaneously permitted to develop these new technologies, while exploiting its natural carbon resources, to create economic and social development.