African leaders would give priority to urgent matters of development including the use of fossil fuels and coal to generate power, while also attending to important issues around Climate Change.
This disclosure was expressed today by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the ongoing African Development Bank annual general meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, where he and other African leaders spoke at the High Level Roundtable on the theme: Energy and Climate Change.
According to him, “for us, priority today is development and we have to take development seriously,” recalling for instance the fact that 45% of those who don’t have access to power in the world are from Africa and adding that almost half of that African share are in Nigeria.
Said he: “we are faced with a very dire situation and in most of Africa we simply don’t have power and without power there is very little that can be done.”
He restated the importance of renewable energy, saying “we think that renewable energy and all of the concern about Climate Change are important, but we must prioritise development.”
He said Nigeria as an example is one of the major hydro-carbon enriched countries, and that makes fossil fuels important. “We have to leverage all that we can get from fossil fuel, coal is also important.”
But he explained that the arguments about renewable energy are well-noted and Nigeria has the capacity for, and is going to tap into solar energy, yet he stressed that “we are dealing with a major (developmental) problem.”
Asked by the moderator if he meant that African leaders would rather get energy now and worry about environment later, Prof Osinbajo further stated that “it is possible to work on both together,” even while prioritizing development.
He said what African leaders are asking from the developed countries, is for instance, the technology to make clean coal.
According to him “we think that we must use our fossil fuel to the maximum, we must use our coal to the maximum, and we simply call on the support of the developed nations that are aggressive about reducing emissions, especially in coal power plants to give us the technology that is required because obviously there is available technology to make coal clean and we simply call upon them to give us that technology.”
He said while Africa is the least contributor to global emissions, yet the continent is also “the hardest hit by the whole consequences of climate change, that is the paradox. But that paradox becomes jeopardy when we are being asked to take the greater burden of resolving the problem of climate change, so we really need the help of the west in particular.”
Explaining some of the limitations of solar power for instance, the Vice President said “we must bear in mind that for industry for example, the base load power is critical, the base load power is so much more difficult to get from solar power for example…so we must understand that our immediate need requires the base load power that can move us forward quickly and that we would get from fossil fuel, hydro power and coal fire plants.”
Other speakers at the panel include the presidents of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, and Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, who is also the current Chairman of the African Union.
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, Prime Ministers and senior ministers from several other African countries were also in attendance at the formal opening event of the meeting where the President of the ADB, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina observed that the presence of several African leaders at the meeting is an expression of their support for the bank.