STATEMENT: Africa is crying, our forest, our life!
Africa is crying, our forest, our life! Get up, stand up for a collective struggle against the expansion of extractivism
By Kwami Kpondzo
The time has come to free Africa from fossil fuels expansion and the burden of the climate crisis. Africa remains asphyxiated because of the persistence of climate change effects. The continent is being cooked by a rapid rise in temperature.
The Working Group I report of IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be published next year, provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.
Reducing emissions drastically means stopping funding fossil fuels and moving to another energy system which is environmentally friendly.
It is obvious that oil, gas, and coal exploitation are heavily contributing to the destruction of the planet and people’s livelihoods, causing environmental and human health impacts, respiratory diseases, and cancer. Communities are suffering gravely because of fossil fuels extraction. Their water sources are polluted and livelihoods have been destroyed. Governments in Africa continue with the destruction of the planet and people’s lives, putting profit before people. Their complicity with multinationals lock Africa in the exploitative fossil fuels pathway to meet the energy needs of polluting nations and to feed the greed of the fossil fuels industry.
Instead of moving away from fossil fuels in order to reduce carbon emissions and resolve the climate crisis, false solutions such as Net Zero, large scale biomass and geoengineering are being promoted.
Geoengineering is one of the false solutions pushed onto Africa. Implementing it will have huge impacts on local communities and their livelihoods. It will promote more land grabbing for the expansion of monoculture plantations, and will reinforce carbon offsetting, which will continue to legitimize CO2 emissions, and thus the continuation of the climate crisis.
Tree plantations for energy are already being established on a large scale throughout Africa, making it inevitable that large volumes of wood will eventually be exported to be burned in the Global North to meet the rapidly growing demand for biomass. There is already evidence of this emerging trend in Ghana, where a Norwegian company (APSD) has acquired large areas of land to establish eucalyptus plantations. The exploitation of land in the Global South by Global North companies to make a profit is a form of colonialism that communities in Africa are feeling the impacts of.
Extractivism poses a real problem not only for local communities and Indigenous peoples but also for the planet. Extractive projects are driving deforestation and biodiversity loss. Indigenous people and local communities are forcibly displaced because their lands are taken by force. These projects are sources of conflict and drivers of serious human rights violations. The uprising of members of the affected communities to defend their rights, the indifference of governments to the behavior of the companies in charge of these extractive projects, and the presence of the military on project sites are all characteristics of extractivism. The right to water, the right to food and the right to adequate housing are most often violated by these extractive projects.
The 27th Conference of Parties to UN Climate Convention in Sharm El Sheikh must deliver real solutions for the good of the planet and people. This COP will be the fifth one in Africa (after in Kenya in 2006, Morocco in 2001 and 2016, and South Africa in 2011. Many people are calling it an “African COP.” The COP happened in Latin America and Europe several times but was never called a “Latin American” or “European” COP. Since the wealthiest countries and the multinationals, both big polluters, will be at the COP, there will be always business-as-usual pushing for false climate solutions.
Enough is enough! Our Mother Earth is dying and we are all suffocating. The multinationals are exploiting Africa to provide energy, but for whom? According to the International Energy Agency, 770 million Africans had no access to energy in 2019. Why continue exploiting fossil fuels in Africa if it is not benefiting Africans? Women are most vulnerable and most impacted by fossil fuels exploitation and the climate crisis. Oil extraction leads to deforestation, forest degradation, and environmental devastation of lands through the release of toxic drilling by-products into local rivers. Some of the world’s most promising oil and gas deposits lie deep in tropical rainforests. The construction of road infrastructure for accessing remote oil sites is also a driver of deforestation. The expansion of fossil fuels industries in Africa has no reasonable purpose and needs to be stopped to avoid irreparable harm. We need a real and effective energy transformation if we are to survive.