Column Opinion

Who Burned Our Mother-Earth?

By Kelechi Abonuyo

Scientists from all over the world now agree that the impacts of climate change will get worse, unless action is taken now. The Swedish teenage girl – Greta Thunberg, is taking a lead to energise global consciousness in a way never seen before. There was a global rally on climate change in seven continents.

Initiated in Europe and in their cousin Americas, some African and Asian countries participated in the rally. Currently world leaders are gathering at United Nations in New York to discuss climate change, among many other global concerns. In fact the UN Secretary General – Antonio Guterres, has already dubbed this summit a Summit on Climate Change, and we agree no less. After all Amazon is burning and sea levels are rising to record heights. Floods are displacing and causing landslides in some happy communities across the world.

There is one unresolved issue in this whole thing. As a practitioner of Renewable Energy (RE), it might seem scandalous coming from no other than me. It is as if my argument can take food off my table. The issue is not about the business. It is about the politics – the thing around the neck of climate change.

In 1997 the world gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to talk about climate change and what needed to be done to save the earth. The United States of America (USA) was the champion, but China opted out. China didn’t sign on to the protocol, which is now known as the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Maybe China was right. China had huge deposits of coal in their soil. China was energy deficient like Nigeria and needed to generate energy from any available resource, at all cost, even if it cost the earth. Besides, China had no market share in the emerging renewable energy business. China needed to step up research in the new area of economy, in order to have a lead. China opted out as a signatory and then concentrated all energies on RE researches until they emerged stronger and better. In 2015, China therefore became the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic power, with 43 GW of total installed capacity. Today, China has 65.13% on the market share of global RE business – solar, wind, biomass, etc.

By 1997, global emission index (CO2, CH4, N2Ox etc and PM) put China at 3500CO2 emission (million tonnes) per year. Currently China is responsible for 30% of global CO2 emission, twice that of USA, which still tops the chart. This means that China’s emission is greater than all of Africa’s put together, plus a vestige of Middle East Asia. China’s energy generation still depends on its large coal deposits.

While China had fun with emission, the USA cut back on its dependence on coal. There was collateral effect on USA economy. In state of Ohio, at least, there were job losses. Businesses moved abroad. USA trailed behind China on RE market share. President Donald Trump wasn’t amused by the turn of events. Fast-forward to Climate Change summit in France in 2016.

President Donald Trump declared that the issue of Climate Change was hoax. He pulled the USA out of the agreement. Recently at 45th G7 Summit in France, at least by his body language, he was reluctant about the burning bush of Amazon, even when President Emmanuel Macron of France and the rest of the world looked in the direction of Brazil with eye-popping awe.

Since scientists know better, we also need to know who f*cked this beautiful earth.

Meanwhile Nigeria has huge coal deposits at Enugu. The average monthly electricity generation is 3500MW for its 200million population. What shall Nigeria do with the god-given coal deposits beneath the soil?

The industrialized nations have a price to pay. For instance the carbon emission of the entire Africa does not equal a single nation of China, USA, United Kingdom (UK) or Japan.

The Western world leaders have held African leaders – the oppressed people of this world, by their balls for too long. African leaders have bought into the rhetorics of climate change and are pen-ready to sign on any agreement. But they forget that they didn’t f*ck the earth. Those who fucked it should also mend it, or at least pay the bigger price. It was pleasantly surprising that some Africans bought into Greta’s call, from their remote recesses. This is not an attempt to pitch Africa against the rest of the world. The point is, African countries should continue to utilize their resource until they are self-sufficient enough to honestly cross over. After all, Angela Merkel of Germany just announced that Germany won’t be able to meet set targets on climate change. Instead, she announced, in acceptable manner, some complementary policies to augment Germany’s shortcomings. The acceptable manner was all about diplomacy. Diplomacy is an interesting skill, and it belongs to the west really.

Let’s consider our local circumstances. Besides methane and carbon dioxide – which we have enough trees in the rainforest for their capture and sequestration, there is another concern of particulate matter emission. It is hypocritical for African leaders to try to impress their colonial masters by signing on any agreement when millions of farmers still practice the traditional bushing burning. Like the burning bush of the Amazon, bush burning in Africa is responsible for the release of PM and CH4, CO2, besides burning of used tyres and some illegal oil refineries, although it is mere fraction of what comes out of industrialised nations. Make no mistake. Africa has naturally balanced carbon cycle.

In one edition of LiveEarth – a Nigerian quarterly magazine on Renewable Energy and Climate Change, countries were tabulated according to their carbon emission footprint. China and the USA topped the chart. In UK styled Scope 2, which deals with how carbon emission relates to electricity generation, UK was 0.44548 per kgCO2e/kWh of electricity in 2013. This means that for every kW of electricity generated in the UK, 0.44548 equivalent of carbon was emitted. For the 6.0gigawatts (Gt) peak value (not megawatts) of electricity from coal in the UK, anyone can do the maths. This is without prejudice that bush burning, which is the major source of emission in Africa, belongs to landfills and biomass in lesser Scope 1. If UK emission scopes are standardised across the globe, it is unimaginable the scale of emissions from industrialised nations. The UK alone simply dwarfs the entire bush burning in Africa. In 2018, China stands at 10.1Gt of CO2, whereas America is at 5.4Gt of CO2. The European Countries, including the UK, is 3.5Gt. Other developed countries are not yet figured into the maths.

My take is that African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa etc should as well harness their minerals – such as coal and fossil. They should also invest hugely in the healthcare system. There should be intense campaign on paradigm change on farm practice and lifestyle.
Industrialised nations have a huge price to pay. There should be separate agreement for them beyond politics and lips service. Carbon-trading, -budget and -tax remain veritable means to achieve some RE targets. Specifically African countries will gain revenues from carbon-trading.
In the face of all these brouhaha, as an advisor, what would be your candid advice to an African leader such as President Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria, as he addresses the UN today?

Climate Change, which provokes renewable energy, is indeed very topical.

(N/B: N2Ox is oxides of Nitrogen, Particulate Matters (PM) are microns of (black) soothe which can be inhaled, which cause health issues like bronchitis; MW is megawatts of electricity; Protocol is a set of guidelines binding a group of people on a particular interest, kWh means kilowatt-hour)

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