Our Burning Planet


‘Drill, baby, drill; gas, baby, gas’: African energy ministers solidify pro-fossil fuel position ahead of COP27

‘Drill, baby, drill; gas, baby, gas’: African energy ministers solidify pro-fossil fuel position ahead of COP27
From left: Ghana's Minister of Resources and Energy, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Equatorial Guinea Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons Gabriel Mbaga Obiang, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber Lima NJ Ayuk, Senegal Minister of Petroleum and Energies Sophie Gladima, founder and CEO of Egypt Oil & Gas Mohamed Fouad and Minister of Petroleum of Niger Mahamane Sani Mahamadou. (Photo: Ethan van Diemen)

At the closing event of Africa Energy Week, NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber summarised the positions of the four African energy ministers ahead of UN climate negotiations: ‘Drill, baby, drill; gas, baby, gas.’ His sentiments were echoed by a number of other African energy ministers during the conference. 

“From Cape to Cairo: A Common African Voice for COP27” was its title. It was the closing event of African Energy Week, held in Cape Town between 18 and 21 October 2022 just a few weeks before climate negotiations are to be held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. One by one, ministers of energy and petroleum resources explicitly – and sometimes humorously – shared NJ Ayuk’s sentiments.

Ayuk was joined on stage by Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons in Equatorial Guinea; Sophie Gladima, Senegal’s Minister of Petroleum and Energies, Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, Minister of Petroleum of Niger and Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the Ghanaian Minister for Energy. On the schedule but missing was their South African counterpart, Gwede Mantashe, as well as his Nambian and Nigerian counterparts.

Together, this grouping of African ministers sought to answer questions such as: how can an African Just Transition be compatible with a global energy transition?; What does a victory in Egypt look like for Africa?; Will Africa be able to speak with one voice at COP27?

Assuming the various ministers represent Africa’s voice and based on their statements, the answer to the final question is a resounding yes. 

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Ahead of the discussion, Tarek El Molla, the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, shared some prerecorded remarks via video link.

In a speech entirely devoid of any mention of Africa’s rich renewable resource endowment, El Molla said “We are a few weeks away from COP27 that Egypt is hosting on behalf of the African continent, carrying and expressing the voices of the African countries. Although the African continent is not responsible for the climate change crisis, it is facing its most negative impacts.

He continued that “This year, COP27 represents an opportunity to articulate Africa’s priorities for reducing emissions … transformative adaptation, accessing appropriate funding, and addressing climate repercussions. We certainly cannot ignore the fact that oil and gas resources still represent an essential source of energy globally, and will remain part of the global energy mix over the long term. 

“Our goal is to provide oil and gas sources in ways that are more responsible, environmentally friendly and with reduced impacts on the climate, including through CCUS [carbon capture use and storage], methane emissions reduction and carbon circular economy … as environmental concerns are now more prominent than ever, it is crucial to highlight the global role in providing the access to funding for gas projects, deployment of technologies and capacity building that are becoming increasingly necessary to provide these oil and gas resources in ways that are more responsible with reduced impacts on the climate.”

The Egyptian minister continued that “I’m very optimistic about the Egyptian and African collaborative efforts to develop an initiative for energy access and a just transition in Africa. The African initiative will consider optimum monetisation of the continent’s energy resources – especially natural gas – to support the economic growth and sustainable development of African nations to fulfil the aspirations and welfare of the local societies.” 

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His countryman Mohamed Fouad, Founder and CEO of Egypt Oil & Gas, moderated the panel discussion and sought to set out the context. 

“The reality as I frame today’s panel, is that my intention is to create the platform of the blueprint of success. Africa’s historical and current carbon emissions share is below 3% of global emissions and the burden of climate change on economies and livelihoods across the entire continent is disproportionately high.

“A complete climate injustice,” said Fouad. 

“Africa’s high vulnerability to climate change and a low readiness for its impact is threatening to derail development goals and impose further economic costs and social disruption. True climate justice suggests that Africa is owed 10 times as much as the global climate finance that it received in the recent years… The principle of a just energy transition in Africa must consider past emissions and how these [have] shaped emissions trajectories. Africa contributed little to the buildup of historical emissions and share and therefore should not be denied ‘carbon space’ to develop its economies.”

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Professor Mark New, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Climate Change and Director of the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town told Our Burning Planet that the “carbon space” is “not available; it is pie in the sky.”

He explained that any “carbon space” for Africa will “push emissions above the cap needed for 1.5 or 2°C of global warming, leading to extra warming, which will then hit African countries hardest, as these are the most vulnerable. It is a case of turkeys voting for Christmas.” 

Thresholds of 1.5°C and 2°C define “dangerous climate change.” The scientific consensus is resolute that further increases in global warming will result in further increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme events across the globe such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, tropical cyclones and in some regions, the frequency and intensity of drought.

Despite this, when asked what it could mean for Africa to have a more unified voice as it relates to matters of energy, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Lima said “I promise not to say [transition] any more… [this is] the last time I’m going to say energy transition. I’m not gonna say that any more. Anything regarding energy security, that’s really our priority. That’s what we will be talking… only energy security. Once we achieve the energy security… [then] we start talking about the transition or the transformation or any other things. 

I very strongly advocate for… when you say China (can use their fossil fuels) it’s okay, when you say America (can use their fossil fuels) it’s okay… only when you say Africa, it’s wrong. China’s resources for China, American resources for America… it has to be the same thing – African resources for Africa.”

African countries redefine energy transition, urge more fossil fuel investments ahead of climate negotiations

Our Burning Planet previously reported that energy ministers prevaricated on the definition of “energy transition”, saying that instead of meaning moving from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon economy, in Africa it should mean “to transit from no energy to energy, to fill the energy access gap” – seemingly inferring that the two priorities were mutually exclusive.   

Obiang Lima’s Sengalese counterpart, Sophie Gladima, in response to a question about what role “developing countries in Africa should play to maximise oil and gas production for economic growth and energy security”, said in French that “the main issue that we all agree on is funding. Funding has been cut, and even though we have a gas-to-power strategy, the funding continues to be cut. This planet has given us natural resources and we have to exploit them. But we need to exploit them in a responsible manner and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes others have done in the past. Let us use our oil and gas and have the chance to grow. Ministers of energy must go and convince the ministers of environment. We need to decide together and find a way that is for the good of Africa.”

Prempeh, her Ghanaian counterpart, to an alternating mixture of laughter and applause said “I do not want to talk in terms of victory, but in terms of responsibility and rights. I will be an irresponsible leader to sell my country on the altar of energy transition without talking about the significance of energy security or energy access or without talking about energy affordability. The ministers of energy have been meeting, building and developing a consensus. We should not allow ourselves to be divided between environment and development.” 

He went on to decry what he considered a double standard. Speaking about Africa being locked out of access to international markets if they develop their fossil fuel resources, he said “Russia earns more from their mineral resources, even as we speak … I’ve never heard anybody say we won’t buy from Russia; the worst I’ve heard is that they will cap the price … injustice will continue to exist about exploitation and about appropriate remuneration and price for a natural resource, for the whole of Africa … all the gas and oil we take, over 80% ends up in Europe, or China, or in India. It is not even used in the Africa continent.” 

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“So it looks like some people have sat in a room and said ‘these people, the only thing that is good for us … is to produce for us so that we can grow big, and they can grow lean’. No. The African child has got a right to develop, to develop to its full talent capability. And the only way he or she can do that is the leaders present would exploit the resources God has given and given to all of us, including the sun, and the sea and the land and the forest … so that child will grow to become a productive citizen,” said Prempeh.  

He continued that “If we talk about the energy transition, we will talk about using what God has given us to use. We will continue to exploit our reserves for the socioeconomic development of the country.” 

Niger’s petroleum minister, Mahamadou made a few points. “When it comes to international oil companies (IOCs), in the same way that African countries and ministers have to stay united and speak with one voice, IOCs have to join that single narrative that we share. When it comes to Niger, we have three IOCs active, so we are working closely with them to ensure the full potential of the oil and gas is exploited. When it comes to the environment, in Niger 80% of the population lives in rural areas. They rely on biomass and have to do damage to the environment. The way we proceed is we provide them with access to clean cooking and prevent the damage being done to the environment.”

Asked for his final thoughts, Ayuk said, to another burst of laughter and applause, that his message would be “drill, baby, drill”. 

“That should be Africa’s message to the world. If you want to solve energy poverty, gas baby gas. Europe wants to call gas green: it has always been green. If it is green gas for Europe, why is it not green gas for Africa? We can do better if we tone down the rhetoric that energy producers are evil people or bad people. We need to go to COP27 backing up our energy producers. We should not be apologising for our energy sector. That is the message we should take.” 

South Africa to Unveil Climate Investment Plan at COP27

Speaking at an event on 21 October marking Vietnam’s 45th year in the organisation, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that every country had a role to play in tackling the climate crisis. 

“The G20 economies together account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of global GDP. They must lead. They must reduce their emissions this decade – in line with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees – and fully pivot to renewable energy. Wealthier countries must keep their promise to provide $100-billion to support developing countries to build resilience. 

“Action on loss and damage is a moral imperative that must be front and centre at the upcoming UN Climate Conference – COP27 – in Egypt. All this is essential to rebuild trust between developed countries and the global south.

“But every country has a role to play,” said the UN chief. 

“Because even if all developed countries were to reach net zero by 2030, we would still not be able to keep to 1.5 degrees of global warming without further action by the rest of the world. This means we cannot wait until after 2030 to move away from fossil fuels – particularly coal – or to peak global emissions. If the world does not cut emissions by 45% by 2030, then achieving net zero by 2050 will be a pipe dream. That will mean a climate nightmare for billions of people. We need all hands on deck now to realise an energy transition that is global, sustainable, just, inclusive and equitable.” OBP/DM

Absa OBP

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  • Change is Good says:

    I love it, Energy security is the buzz word. Not one government in Africa has been concerned with this before, hence the lack of electricity for most citizens of Africa. Which populations that live in oil and gas producing countries in Africa at the moment have benefitted from the sale of this resource. None. Politicians and governments have not invested this money into their countries, they have stolen it for personal gain and created environmental disasters for their citizens. Now that the easy exploitation of oil and gas is disappearing, politicians are squealing and squirming. It requires expertise to set up renewables, it requires a love for fellow beings, human and animal, it requires a consideration for nature. Africa’s politicians/dictatorships do not have these concerns, so the energy security speak is a lie and should be seen as such. We could, as a continent be the forerunners in renewables, but sadly you cannot steal billions from renewables as easily as you can from oil and gas projects. So, a message to the youth of Africa, your governments operate in the past, let’s change Africa into a futuristic continent and kick the old guard to touch, unless of course they have some sort of an epiphany and decide to be good caring, 21st century citizens themselves.

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