Self-reliance, not aid, best climate change weapon
Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic strikes me as a blend of philosophy and melody, encapsulating the irony of life’s twists and turns. It’s ironic that some of the most transformative everyday technologies originated from wartime endeavours. From the ubiquitous internet and Siri to GPS, we trace their roots to an agency that also conceived some of the most formidable weaponry known to humanity: Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a Pentagon institution known for its audacious approach, yielding both breakthroughs and setbacks. The duality! And then, the Ukraine war’s impact on energy security and geopolitics hastened Europe’s transition to renewable energy. Last year, wind and solar surpassed gas as the primary electricity source, at 22 per cent of the supply in the EU, says London energy think tank Ember. That aligns with the EU’s goal to cut reliance on Russian fossil fuels, steering towards a sustainable and secure energy future. It took a war to expedite the shift to renewables! The inaugural Africa Climate Summit, convened in Nairobi by Kenya and the African Union Commission (AUC), proposed a novel financing framework for the continent’s climate needs. This encompassed debt restructuring and relief and the creation of a Global Climate Finance Charter endorsed via the UN General Assembly and CoP by 2025. Yet conflicts in Europe and the Middle East divert attention from the Global South’s aspiration to be a big player in climate action and reap the benefits of climate financing. It’s time Africa re-evaluated its dependency mindset and embraced innovation. The irony of Africa’s economic development is akin to Walter Rodney’s perspective in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Rodney underscores how deliberate exploitation and underdevelopment by European colonial powers mirrored the advancement of Europe at Africa’s expense. He emphasises the importance of Africans understanding the capitalist system and striving for change without forsaking their role in development. A World Bank report released on February 27, 2023 underscores the potential of solar mini grids in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide uninterrupted renewable electricity to underserved communities. Compared to diesel-fuelled systems and kerosene-based appliances, they offer a cost-effective means to bridge the energy access gap by 2030 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. African states and industries must collaborate to identify opportunities, reduce costs and surmount financing hurdles, breaking free from the Global North. The UN agency Unctad encourages Africa to invest in solar technology skills development to create jobs and boost the involvement of domestic companies in the solar panel supply chains, fostering economic growth. As per the UN Economic Commission for Africa, a one-megawatt mini-grid plant can generate 800 full-time jobs in a year. Appliances like microwaves and the internet were products of Darpa, we don’t need a war in Africa; our battle against climate change is an existential threat, compelling our governments to tap into their youthful vigour for creativity and innovation.