At a seminar organised by the IMF titled ‘Toward Better Infrastructure in Developing Countries’, which took place at the Jack Morton auditorium of the George Washington University yesterday, Kemi Adeosun, the Finance Minister, accused Western nations of ‘hypocrisy’ in blocking Nigeria’s attempts to use coal energy to power its economy.
In Nigeria, we have coal and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what it will take to get coal-fired power. Yet, we are being blocked. I think there is some hypocrisy in that.
We have an entire western industrialization that was built on coal-fired energy and that is the competitive advantage that has been used to develop Britain, where I grew up.
Now, Africa wants to do it, and they saying it’s not green, we can’t do and that we should go and do solar, wind, which are the most expensive power projects.
The Finance Minister is right that the industrialisation of the West over the last two hundred years has been driven by fossil fuels, but as a result of climate change concerns, that dependence is gradually coming to an end and countries like the US, Germany, Denmark, South Africa and China – to mention just a few – are moving toward renewable energy and have set ambitious targets for this switch.
It is a sign of a global shift. Last year, a historic global climate agreement was signed in Paris, one that has gotten most of the world’s countries on board in an effort to avert the worst effects of climate change. Every country that is party to that agreement has committed to a course of action that is peculiar to their own circumstances, and strikes a balance between climate concerns and economic growth.
Below is a summary of Nigeria’s own Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) through to 2030.
13,000MW of off-grid solar energy through 2030 is very achievable with the right level of political will, and the rest of the focus is on energy efficiency, a more efficient grid, more efficient public transportation and climate smart agriculture. The INDC Nigeria committed to in November 2015, approved by President Buhari, does not preclude development of any coal fired power plants, but asks that the focus of Nigeria’s energy mix lie elsewhere. For example, the country is far off from fully exploiting its gas potential for power generation.
To say that the development of coal plants is being blocked by ‘Western powers’ is also inaccurate, at best. Coal mining is currently going on in Okobo, Kogi State. This mining is carried out by ETA Zuma, and there is a deal in place for that firm to deliver 300MW of coal power by 2018.
Ms Adeosun’s comments display a worrying lack of alignment with the President, who ratified the Paris Agreement in New York on September 22nd, as well as knowledge of the actual content of what was ratified. More worryingly, this mentality of ‘the West did this, why can’t we?’ is a remarkably casual way of addressing the very real climate challenges being faced by the world, challenges that will continue long after she stops being Finance Minister. For sure, the necessity of economic growth is there, but the INDCs have already addressed that question in a way that can help us and other parties to the Paris Agreement grow sustainably.
Now is the time to work to achieve the modest targets set out, rather than complain about what current industrialised countries did or did not do to get where they are. To do this is defeatist, and fails to take into account the huge promise offered by renewable energies. Other countries are already embracing this promise, and Nigeria should not be left out.