news analysis advocacy
 

Climate Change and the Environment

This page updated on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php.

About these pages|Continent-wide and Global Issues|Peace and Security|Economy and Development|Illicit Financial Flows and Tax Justice|Food and Agriculture|Health

Talking Points

  • Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

  • When industries make decisions based on short-term profits, encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and more extreme weather will be even more devastating.

  • Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance. Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably, clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

Storify Update: The End of Coal?

Most recent bulletins on climate change and the environment

June 30, 2016  Africa/Global: Air Pollution Threats & Solutions http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/air1606.php
    "Around 6.5 million deaths are attributed each year to poor air quality, making this the world’s fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking. Without changes to the way that the world produces and uses energy, the ruinous toll from air pollution on human life is set to rise. ... Household air pollution, closely linked to a lack of access to modern energy services, causes around half a million premature deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa, where four-fifths of the population rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking, and candles and kerosene lamps are extensively used for indoor lighting." - International Energy Agency (IEA)

June 22, 2016  Africa/Global: "Stop the Bleeding" Updates http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/stb1606.php
    "A new report by Tax Justice Network-Africa and ActionAid says that East African countries (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) are losing approximately $2 billion a year of revenue each year by granting tax incentives to multinational companies. ... According to Yaekob Metena, ActionAid Tanzania's country director, 'Though there have been improvements in recent years in addressing the issue, governments in East Africa continue to give away domestic resources in tax incentives, funds that could pay for the regions' education and health needs and meeting the development objectives.'"

June 13, 2016  Africa/Global: Don't Be a Fossil Fool http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/clim1606.php
    From solar TVs in rural Kenya to modular concrete for windmills in Iowa, the pace of technological advance continues to accelerate, making renewable fuels more and more competitive with fossil fuels. Technology alone will not be sufficient, of course. But these trends, combined with worldwide climate activism and increasing awareness among the public and government policy-makers, are leading even establishment analysts to conclude that, in the words of the Financial Times, "fossil fuel producers face a future of slow and steady decline."

March 9, 2016  Africa/Global: Making Choices on Climate Future http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/clim1603.php
    The choices for the future of the planet's climate are ever more stark in 2016. While the "incumbency" fossil-fuel system (as analyst Jeremy Leggett terms it) remains powerful, the trends favoring a more rapid transition to renewable energy are building much more rapidly than almost anyone expected. Coal is clearly on the way out, with the possible exception of South Africa, which continues to invest in this outdated and deadly technology. And downward cost trends in solar, wind, battery storage, and other renewable technologies continue to accelerate both in developed and in developing countries.

December 10, 2015  Africa/Global: Beyond the Paris Climate Talks http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1512.php
    As the climate talks in Paris draw to a close this week, the countries present are still far from full agreement. Among the latest surprises was the announcement by the Marshall Islands and St. Lucia of a "Coalition of High Ambition Countries," spearheaded by small island states which are the most at risk of being submerged due to climate change. The coalition includes over 100 countries, including the European Union countries and the United States, but notable exceptions are the largest developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

September 30, 2015  Africa/Global: Climate Action Beyond Paris http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1509.php
    "Temperatures over subtropical southern Africa have risen at more than twice the global rate over the last five decades." - CSIR, South Africa. *** "To date, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies." - Arabella Advisors, USA. *** "Kenya is emerging as a hotspot for off-grid solar power. A 2014 study by M-KOPA Solar and InterMedia shows that 14 per cent of the surveyed population use solar as their primary lighting and charging source." - The Nation, Kenya

August 3, 2015  Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1508.php
    Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries, including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the beginning of the end for coal.

July 6, 2015  Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1507.php
    With less than six months before this year's UN Climate Change conference in Paris, it is clear that commitments by governments to action on climate change will fall short of that necessary to keep global warming under the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, despite recent new pledges by the United States, Brazil, and China (http://tinyurl.com/qhtfdk9; http://tinyurl.com/q8g3srl). But, beyond national governments, there are signs of growing momentum for more rapid "transformational" action. Particularly notable is the recognition that such action must simultaneously address economic inequality and development as well as the natural environment.

May 18, 2015  Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development? http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/wb1505.php
    Decarbonizing Development, a new report from the World Bank, lays out a target of "zero carbon future" by the end of the century. The target year goal is the most conservative of the options laid out for negotiations in the climate summit in Paris in December. Such a long transition can rightly be criticized by climate activists and scientists as falling far short, as can the Bank's own record of continued support for fossil fuels implicitly faulted in this report.

May 5, 2015  Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/ren1505.php
    "A key feature of 2014 was the continuing spread of renewable energy to new markets. Investment in developing countries, at $131.3 billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion, up just 3% on the year. Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey were all in the billion-dollar-plus club in 2014 in terms of investment in renewables." - UNEP / Bloomberg New Energy Finance

March 30, 2015  South Africa: Energy Futures Contested http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/sa1503.php
    The energy crisis in South Africa, with regular "load-shedding" due to shortages of power from the monopoly utility Eskom, is now at the top of the political agenda, featuring in President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in February and in ongoing disputes about who is responsible and when the situation can be fixed. The long-term strategy to exit the crisis and begin a transition to a sustainable energy system is also marked by strong disagreements between utility and government officials and their critics.

March 10, 2015  Africa/Global: Falling Short on Climate Finance http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1503.php
    Africa, the continent with warming deviating most rapidly from "normal" conditions, could see climate change adaptation costs rise to US$50 billion per year by 2050, even assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2 degrees C this century, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

March 3, 2015  East Africa: Water, Wind, and Lake Turkana http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/turk1503.php
    Lake Turkana, in the far northwest of Kenya and extending over the border into Ethiopia, is the world's largest desert lake, in a region that is central to archaeological investigation into the origin of humanity. It is now also central to two different projects for expanding renewable energy due to come on-line in the next three years, one based on hydropower and the other on wind. While both will significantly expand the input to the East African power grid, critics charge that expansion of hydropower on Ethiopia's Omo River also poses serious threats to the livelihood of local people both around Lake Turkana and upstream along the Omo River.

February 11, 2015  Africa/Global: Archbishop Tutu on Fossil-Fuel Divestment http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1502.php
    "The destruction of the earth's environment is the human rights challenge of our time. ... The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A deep injustice. Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels." Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Complete listing of bulletins on climate change and the environment, 2003-present