Africa needs help to win clean energy investment

Africa lacks the capacity and projects to attract the levels of investment in clean energy seen in other parts of the world, Kenya’s environment minister said on Sunday.

Africa lags behind Asia and Latin America in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which lets rich nations fund clean energy projects in developing countries, then claim credits back home for delivering greenhouse gas cuts.

Projects range from Indian hydroelectric dams to capturing methane gas from rubbish dumps in Brazil, but only one African country—South Africa—has so far benefited under the CDM.

Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana, who will open a United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi on Monday, said the world’s poorest continent lacked the capacity to set up the kind of mega-projects seen elsewhere.

“We do not have the requisite capacity to be able to prepare,” he told Reuters in an interview. “These are some of the issues we will have to talk about [at the summit] so Africa is assisted, even to come up with small community projects.”

He said that under the CDM, there had been a relative lack of interest in less complex tree-planting projects, and that the continent had lost out as a result.

Experts say Africa has contributed least to global warming, but because of its lack of development it is the least prepared to deal with the consequences—and has the most to lose.

More vulnerable

A UN report issued on Sunday said the continent was even more vulnerable to climate change than previously feared, with 70-million people at risk from coastal flooding by 2080 and more than a quarter of wildlife habitats under threat.

Kibwana said the growing frequency of droughts and floods blamed on global warming reduced the ability of African leaders to improve peoples’ living standards.

“Instead of investing in infrastructure, we now start going back to providing food, rehabilitating the infrastructure and remedial development,” he said.

East Africa suffered a severe drought this year, leaving 11-million people short of food in half a dozen countries across some of the region’s most arid zones. Tens of thousands of livestock and several hundred people died of hunger and thirst.

Kibwana said many governments on the continent only recently began realising the full dangers of rising temperatures.

“I think the fury of nature, in terms of the adverse effects of climate change, is now forcing countries including my own to take this issue more seriously,” he said.

About 6 000 delegates at the Nairobi talks will discuss ways of extending Kyoto beyond its 2012 deadline, as well as looking for ways to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
- Reuters

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