Despite the fact that ties between Africa and Europe in the field of climate and energy cooperation are now somewhat tense, both continents share an interest in supplying their inhabitants with dependable and clean energy. The European Green Deal‘s alleged protectionist bent, the EU’s “dash for gas” in Africa as part of its strategy to become less dependent on Russian imports, and multilateral climate issues, such as the balance between climate finance, loss and damage, and climate ambition at COP27, are the sources of tension.
Since the political drive for hydrogen in Europe in 2020, discussions between the EU and African nations have focused heavily on hydrogen technologies. Theoretically, cooperation on hydrogen may be advantageous for both continents. Techno-economic problems are still open, so a framework for collaboration that takes into account economic gains, social and environmental standards, and investments in industrialization for producer regions must be established.
Until now, Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) have mostly focused on South Africa and Indonesia, two nations with fast rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although this is a valid objective, it runs the risk of leaving out the majority of African nations, especially the least developed ones. Access to clean energy might be the main goal of JETPs in Africa, and they could also introduce significant advances in terms of country ownership and donor coordination.
A PIONEER OF EU-AFRICAN CLIMATE COOPERATION IS HYDROGEN:
Trade in hydrogen should be viewed as a component of the larger problem of changing global value chains to accommodate a low-carbon world. While industrial production is typically situated close to demand centers today, in a world where renewable power makes up a significant portion of the energy supply, it would be more profitable to situate industry close to transport-intensive renewable energy sources. Supply chains might be divided into trade of intermediate feedstocks, such as elemental iron generated from the reduction of iron ore using renewable hydrogen in, say, South Africa instead of Europe, instead of trading raw commodities and energy. If such changes take place in global value chains, the access of the importers’ to a secure industrial and energy supply will, then, also be taken into account.
The groundwork for bilateral hydrogen commerce has been laid by the signing of bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) by a number of European and African nations. For instance, Namibia signed an MoU at COP26 with Belgium then at COP27 with the EU for Namibia to create renewable hydrogen and export it to Europe. The European Commission’s external energy engagement strategy, which focuses on, among other things, adapting to the fast-changing energy landscape in which new commodities such as hydrogen and ammonia will begin to be traded internationally, includes partnerships with African nations for the production of hydrogen as a key component.
Theoretically, cooperation on hydrogen may be advantageous for both regions. Contrary to Europe, many African nations have substantial potential for renewable energy, suggesting that trade between the two continents would facilitate a more equitable distribution of renewable energy sources worldwide. African nations might profit from foreign investments in renewable energy and hydrogen technology while producing relatively inexpensive hydrogen for EU industry. This in turn might quicken Africa’s industrialization and sustainable energy adoption.
For hydrogen to be a tool for EU-Africa climate and development cooperation, other requirements must be addressed in addition to resolving such techno-economic problems. The top goal is to set up a suitable structure for these standards to be met when the hydrogen sector gradually expands over the following ten years and trade alliances begin to emerge. With tight environmental criteria, including carbon content but also water consumption and quality, it should promote shared prosperity for the participating African and EU countries. Conditions must be established for local communities’ access to energy, the distribution of hydrogen money, and participation in local affairs.
FOR COUNTRY-LED ENERGY TRANSITIONS, COLLABORATION NEEDS TO INCREASE:
Prior to COP27, the AU Executive Council and the AU Commission launched an effort called the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition, which outlined a strategy for meeting Africa’s requirements for energy access and transition without sacrificing its development aspirations. The project emphasizes the continuous use of both renewable and non-renewable resources to supply the continent’s energy demands. Additionally, it emphasizes how crucial it is to create suitable legislative frameworks and raise sufficient investment in order to grow sizable energy markets. The AU-EU Summit in Brussels in February 2022 featured a presentation of the viewpoint. For the sake of ensuring Europe’s energy security, some African experts say that it is crucial to avoid developing gas infrastructure in African nations because such equipment may rapidly become stranded assets.
A JETP between South Africa and a group of donor nations was announced at COP26, mobilizing an initial US $8.5 billion to hasten and support South Africa’s ambitious NDC trajectory. Since then, the International Partners Group (IPG) and G7 nations have expressed interest in developing the JETP strategy as COP27 approaches. Several African nations were named as potential candidates on the sidelines of the AU-EU Summit in February. The attention was limited to Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and Senegal as COP27 drew nearer. An expanded group of IPG contributors, including Japan, the United States, Canada, Denmark, the EU, Germany, France, Norway, Italy, and the United Kingdom, was announced for a new JETP with Indonesia at COP27.
The attention to emerging nations with major economies is a result of donor countries’ primary motivation for emulating the JETP approach, which appears to be to target nations with rapidly rising GHG emission rates. Although this is a valid objective, it runs the risk of leaving out African nations, especially the least developed ones. It is important to talk about whether other African nations could envision a relationship of this caliber. The JETP strategy has a number of intriguing features that might be useful for enhancing connections between Africa and the EU.
Considering that the goal for African nations when they signed the Paris Agreement was to have clean and sustainable energy systems with universal energy access as the final goal, African energy transitions must continue to be led by Africa and not by donors. In order to achieve this goal, the COP27 established the Africa Just and Inexpensive Electricity Transition Project (AJAETI), an African-led initiative that aims to ensure that at least 300 million Africans have access to affordable energy by 2027.
Long-term energy and development policies will undoubtedly need to be in line with the 2030 Agenda and the AU’s Agenda 2063 in terms of the steps to be followed for transitions. Estimating potential consequences of transitions on poverty and inequality is essential for planning in order to find the best complementary strategies.
The primary interest groups and political economic obstacles to just transitions must also be identified. Energy transitions could upend the status quo, thus it is crucial to comprehend who would be opposed to reforms and formulate policies that take these political and economic considerations into account. Adequate policy sequencing, information and communication campaigns (as evidenced by earlier subsidy changes), and stakeholder involvement are specific design elements to take into account. One of the key interest groups is made up of citizens. Successful energy transitions will depend on upholding the concepts of justice and fairness.
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