While many of the heads of state gathered in Paris have flaunted a (rhetorical, at least) commitment to fight climate change, African heads of state have gone past speeches to commit budget dollars to transforming their economy. A group of African leaders announced the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), which plans to help the continent deliver at least 10 GW through a variety of renewable energy sources by 2020, and at least 300 GW of new and additional capacity by 2030.
“It is an exceptional moment in Africa’s history and a game-changer for the continent,” says Mohamed Adow, senior climate change advisor at Christian Aid. “Africa has a huge energy deficit: some 600 million Africans live without access to electricity. Its current energy output is about 150GW, however the new plans would deliver double that amount, and all of it clean and renewable.”
Africa is home to about 14% of the world’s population. The continent currently has the lowest global carbon footprint on the planet, largely because so many of its citizens are using barely any energy at all. As that changes, the energy decisions made by developing countries could have major consequences. The AREI initiative can help fuel Africa’s development with clean energy, rather than coal. This cuts to the heart of one of the most complex issues that is being negotiated in Paris: while the planet needs pollution to lower, the residents of developing countries want to increase the quality of their lives and have the same access to energy as the developed world.