The West’s De-Growth Narrative Poisons The Climate Debate Across Africa

The West’s De-Growth Narrative Poisons The Climate Debate Across Africa

Climate criminals’ like the US and EU have zero moral authority to shout the righteous call for Africa to slow down on fossil fuels.

An oil drill with the US and EU flags drilling a melting planet Earth.

The EU and US are talking over Africa, rebuking the construction of new coal power plants in South Africa, and new oil prospecting in the Congo Basin precious peat forest. This is the West’s ‘De-growth’ narrative that it is trying to foster over Africa.

On paper there’s nothing wrong with it: anyone drilling for oil in Congo Basin’s peat forest is trying to suffocate the earth’s lungs. Also, it’s irresponsible for South Africa to prepare new coal mines when Eskom is such a large sulfur emitter by global standards.

But there’s something counter-productive in the West’s self-righteousness – talking over Africa as if we are infants, and of course the historical and present-day hypocrisy of the West’s role in perpetuating destabilizing climate change.

‘DE-growth plot’

The West’s lecturing on climate change mitigation in Africa is being interpreted as racist overlordship in some quarters here in Africa.  “The launch of the tendering process… speaks to our desire to put our resource potential at the service of our country,” Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, vowed in July when he announced plans to license 30 oil and gas projects in the ecologically sensitive Congo Basin. Mr. Tshisekedi must probably have borrowed a leaf from Gwede Mantashe, the coal-hawk minister of South Africa, who, in 2021, on the eve of COP21,publicly mocked the EU and US and accused them of conjuring up a plot to stifle Africa’s exploitation of her fossil fuel minerals. It’s no coincidence that South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo are arguably two of the most richly endowed African countries in terms of natural resources.

This brings us to why the West’s discouragement of new fossil fuel projects is being seen as a neocolonial ‘de-growth’ plot across Africa. Opportunistic populists across Africa are saying that there is no justification for the West to lecture Africa on fossil fuels because stopping oil and coal is akin to stopping economic growth, access to electricity, and tax windfalls across Africa.

Don’t lecture Africa on Global Warming

Pro-fossil fuels messaging like – Gwede Mantashe’s and Congo’s defiant tone on oil rigs – has huge takers across Africa because of the hypocrisy of the EU and US in trying to lecture Africa about global warming.

Africa is the least contributor to historical greenhouse gasses and there’s no statistical dispute about that. It’s incorrigibly unfair that Mozambique, one of the world’s least emitter of carbon emissions, ranks 154/181 in the ND-GAIN index measuring countries most vulnerable to climate change. The reason is, starting with the massive burning of fossil fuels to industrialize England in the 1800s, Western consumers’ voracious appetite for industrial goods is spewing toxic plumes of carbon that wreck flood and drought havoc in the ecosystems of far-off countries like Mozambique. That the West is guilty makes it unworthy to speak over Africa about fossil fuels and climate change.

Then comes the laughable but sad. To combat climate change there must be no one rule for the West and one for Africa. This summer, as a knee-jerk reaction to Russia’s cutting of heating gas, Germany, the Netherlands, and France are quickly reviving coal and nuclear plants. Far off overseas, Australia is expanding coal fields; the EU is extolling Qatar, Libya, and Algeria to export more natural gas and counter Russia’s artificially enforced market shortages. In July BP, Shell and cohort declared the most stunning oil profits in decades prompting a furious call from the UN Secretary-General that insane oil profits ought to be taxed. These are the Western nations telling Africa to cool down on oil and coal. The hypocrisy is stinking!

Climate criminals

The West’s ‘degrowth’ climate messaging on Africa sounds like a neo-colonialist plot. It is hypocritical and risks poisoning public attitudes towards de-carbonization across Africa. Make no mistake, Africa must decarbonize and invest in renewables. Also, the windfall of new oil and coal profits in the likes of South Africa and Congo usually end up in the pockets of plutoc–rats, not citizens.

However, ‘climate criminals’ like the US and EU has zero moral authority to shout the righteous call for Africa to slow down on fossil fuels. Africans themselves should lead the initiative in line with their millennium development goals.


Edited by Cassandra Roxburgh and Uzoma Ihejirika

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