African G20 seat to help push rich nations on climate pledges

The African Union expects to officially join the Group of 20 nations this month, providing the continent with another seat at the table with some of the world’s biggest polluters as it confronts the fallout from global warming.

The continental group aims to use the opportunity to call on rich nations to honour their promises to tackle climate change, including providing developing countries with $100 billion in financing each year, said Macky Sall, the president of Senegal who holds the AU’s rotating chairmanship. G20 nations are responsible for 80% of global emissions, while Africa accounts for less than 4%.

“Pledges haven’t been fulfilled,” Sall said in an interview at the COP27 climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. “There have been some efforts, but they’ve been below our expectations.” When the AU “joins the G20, we’ll be able to speak regularly to our partners,” he said.

South Africa is currently the only African member of the G20, which will hold its summit in Bali later this month, and Sall expects the AU’s accession to the G20 to be approved at that meeting.  In an address to the United Nations General Assembly last month, he lamented Africa’s exclusion from groups such as the G20 and the Security Council, saying the continent needed to be represented at forums whose decisions affected its 1.4 billion people’s lives.

Several African leaders have said they want to exploit their fossil-fuel reserves to boost growth and supply energy.

Senegal is pushing ahead with its plans to develop its liquefied natural gas industry — it intends using the fuel to generate electricity and exporting some of its output to Europe and other markets, enabling it to generate much-needed foreign exchange.

The West African nation’s economy is set to expand the most in sub-Saharan Africa next year, when it’s set to start producing gas from the BP-backed Greater Tortue Ahmeyim field, International Monetary Fund projections show.

“If we want to be fair to Africa, we shouldn’t block African projects, given that the goal is to develop our countries,” Sall said. “The majority of our population doesn’t have access to electricity.”

The GTA project, straddling the border between Senegal and Mauritania, is set to start production in the third quarter of 2023. A second phase may start as early as 2024, but will require about $5 billion in financing that may be difficult to secure given the increasing antipathy toward fossil-fuel projects.

Senegal is also among a handful of developing countries negotiating for a financing package funded by wealthy nations to help it transition to cleaner forms of fuel. It envisions clinching a deal modeled on one South Africa reached with the US, European Union, UK, France, Germany and several institutions to access $8.5 billion, mainly in the form of loans.

Germany and France are among potential backers for renewable-power projects in Senegal, Sall said at the COP27 meeting. He echoed calls made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for more grant funding to be made available to fund green energy and counter climate change.

“It’s paradoxical for African countries to rely on debt to finance adaptation projects,” Sall said in the interview. “If Africa is going to raise debt to reduce greenhouse emissions, there’s a problem.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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