Authors: Sanjay Kumar Kar and Prajit Goswami
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It had been growing at a rapid rate of 7 percent for the last 10 years. Further, it is expected to grow over 7% percent in the coming decade. To fuel projected economic growth and cater growing energy needs, India requires a lot of energy.
With an area of 1.26 million square miles with diverse landscape and difficult terrain, India comprises around 1.2 billion people and their ever increasing needs. Currently India imports 70-80% of its oil and 30-40% of its natural gas requirements. Historically India’s energy import dependency rests on Middle East.
Coal is the most important and widely available fossil fuel in India. It supplies 55 percent of the country’s primary energy needs. According to BP Statistical Review, 2016 at the end of 2015, India had 60600 million tons of coal reserves with a global share of 6.8% and R/P ratio of 89 years. Compared to other fossil resources like oil & gas, India is better placed with coal resources for future production and use.
India intends to reduce coal imports by exploiting its own reserves. Import of coal has already decreased, by around 19 percent to 16.38 million tons in the month of May 2016 as compared to around 20.29 million tons in May 2015.
India’s current renewable energy capacity, 45 GW, is just about 14.7% of total installed grid connected electricity generation capacity of 306 GW in the country. Some of the major challenges faced by renewable sector are lower capacity utilization, lack of evacuation infrastructure, and funding for large scale expansions. Coal still the cheapest source for power production with per unit tariff in the range of Rs. 2.3-4.00. However, renewable sources like wind and solar are competing well to achieve grid parity. Current wind tariff is in the range of Rs. 3.39-Rs.5.92/kWh and recently solar tariff reached as low as Rs.4.34/kWh. In the beginning Government encouraged feed-in tariff but now the market is moving towards competitive bidding tariff. Therefore, renewable tariff is moving closer to grid parity.
Despite all kind of limitations the Government targets to achieve renewable installation capacity of 175 GW by 2022. Further, multiple initiatives are being taken by the Government to promote off-grid or captive renewable energy along with decentralized renewable applications. The Government is actively pushing installation and production of renewable energy through schemes like accelerated depreciation, generation based incentives (GBI), and viability gap funding. The Government already funded Rs. 25075 million under the GBI scheme for solar and wind power production.
Decentralized renewable applications are expected improve livelihood of millions of Indians in the rural as well as urban India. Because holds will have access to energy which would be helpful for enhancing scope of economic activity, thereby improve economic productivity and revenue generation. Further, affordable energy accessible to all citizens could improve situation of primary education in the country.
As India needs to diversify its energy mix and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel nuclear energy could play a very important role in ensuring energy security of the country. Application of nuclear for electricity generation needs to be actively pushed forward. Media reports suggest that nuclear power cost is in the range of Rs.9-12/kWh.
India’s largely indigenous nuclear power program resulted in capacity installation of 5780 MWe. With the support of Russia and many other partnering countries India is expected to achieve 14.6 GWe nuclear capacity by 2024. It is high time for India to intensify strategic measures to address its energy security challenges like: making energy accessible, affordable, and available to all its citizens.
At least, India could aim to manage energy supply security if not complete energy security. One of the important source of energy could be natural gas as a transit fuel for meeting emerging energy needs. Natural gas can gradually reduce: (i) use of diesel and petrol in the transport sector, (ii) use of coal in the power sector, (iii) use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the domestic cooking, heating, and cooling; and (iv) use of coal and liquid fossil fuel in various industries like ceramic, textile, steel, etc. Further, natural gas could be used to produce hydrogen used in the refineries and in the transport sector.
India’s domestic natural gas production remains a big concern and future addition of new gas reserves provide no better comfort. As a result India’s import dependency continue to grow and we believe that the import trend may very much continue in future too. Unless domestic unconventional sources of gas offer some surprise, import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) would continue to play a critical to bridge the demand-supply gap.
For the time being India’s over dependence on Middle-East for fossil energy is not a concern from supply point of view. However, India should expand its energy sources basket carefully and strategically to avoid any future supply constraints. Considering the current supply glut of fossil fuel, this is the right time to expand the range of sourcing destinations. In the recent past, India actively searched for alternative or complementary destinations for sourcing natural gas. In the process, emerging destinations like the US and Australia were added.
India’s domestic gas production fallen from about 51 billion cubic meter (BCM) in 2010-11 to 31 BCM in 2015-16. As a result the gap between demand and supply has been widening. As results natural import dependency has been increasing which is evident from increase in LNG import from 12.9 BCM in 2010-11 to 21.3 BCM in 2015-16.
Natural gas is certainly tipped as the transition green fuel especially in the transport in sector. It has comparatively lower carbon footprint-thus more environment friendly compared to coal and oil. The uses of gas in cooking, heating and power generation stand to benefit millions of stakeholders. Apart from the above purposes use of natural gas for mobility sector addresses many concerns including the environmental concerns faced by urban cities. So, city gas distribution is poised to offer green energy solution to many struggling cities and upcoming smart cities.
In the present scenario India imports gas only through LNG carrier. It is believed that transporting natural gas through pipelines is found be cost effective over LNG carriers. For example, in 2013 China received pipeline gas imports at an average price of US$ 9.78 per MMBtu compared to average price of LNG import price of US$ 13.8 per MMBtu. LNG is costlier because the gas has to be liquefied to reduce its volume and transported using specially designed cryogenic tanks. Also at the receiving end specialised LNG terminals have to be built to store and re-gasify. Essentially the countries which import natural gas through pipelines enjoy cost advantage over import of LNG.
India has been pushing for transnational pipelines with limited success. However looking at India’s strategic location it would be viable for India to take gas from gas rich Iran, and Turkmenistan through pipelines. India already has agreed upon much talked about Turkmenistan–Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline which starts from Turkmenistan and passes through Afghanistan & Pakistan before reaching India. TAPI pipeline with a length of 1124.68 miles passes through terror affected areas of Kandahar and Herat. Thus this makes it a very risky project to operationalize. Although NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan would ensure to protect the part of the pipeline passing through terror prone territories but future sabotage and attack may not completed ruled out. The project is due to be completed by 2019 and India would receive 1341.78 million cubic feet per day of gas. Operationalization of TAPI would certainly improve gas supply security for India.
Another transnational pipeline project namely Iran-Pakistan-India couldn’t happen due to very many reasons including sanctions on Iran, geopolitical pressure, and security concerns. In a report published in the Indian Express on 22nd April 2016 the Iranian Ambassador was stated saying that this project should be forgotten.
Discussions with Iran is on for a deep sea 868 miles pipeline via the Oman Sea and Indian Ocean. Iran-Oman-India pipeline from Iranian port of Chabahar to India’s Gujarat Coast would transport 1098.141 million standard cubic feet of gas per day. This might compensate for the almost failed IPI project and also there would be no issue of any other transit country conflict.
India has also invested for the development of the Chabahar port and also funding a rail link between Chabahar and Zahedan in Iran. The completion of the rail link would connect Chabahar to North South Transport Corridor (NSTC). These investments are moulding the bilateral ties of India and Iran. This deep sea pipeline will not only connect India to Iran’s Gas fields but Oman is also slated to join the pipeline at a later stage. This would give India a strong foothold to the Gas trade in both Iran and Oman. Also it would boost India’s stand in comparison to China’s One Belt One Road Program (OBOR).
Besides Iran, Oman and Turkmenistan, India also has a potential import source towards its north-eastern side which is Myanmar. The main advantage with Myanmar is its proximity to India and that it shares its borders with North-eastern part of India. Myanmar large untapped reserves. According to BP statistical review report 2016 Myanmar has 18.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas with an R/P ratio of 27 years. But until now the investments that India has made in Myanmar although substantial are very less in comparison to China. According to a report in Journal Of Energy Security India’s investment in Myanmar Oil and Gas sector is around US $1.6 billion while Chinese investments is around US$ 8 billion. The 1.04 US$ Sino-Myanmar gas pipeline has been functional since 2013 transporting 423.72 billion cubic feet (bcf) gas to China annually. Lack of proper funding and coordination between public and private owned firms has resulted in India loosing important bids to other countries. Therefore, impacting India’s intention to secure long term energy supply.
Further, India failed to bring to table Myanmar-Bangladesh-India transnational pipeline because of Bangladesh’s unwillingness to act as a transit country. Although an alternative to this route was by bypassing Bangladesh and building a pipeline through North-East India that could connect to pipelines of East India. This deal also never came to reality due to multiple reasons including lack of funding. And thus China took advantage of this situation and entered into the gas pipeline market of Myanmar and built a similar transnational pipeline to China’s comparatively less developed Yunnan province.
However, an agreement with Myanmar through North-eastern states may increase the pipeline costs but it would also give India long term gas sourcing from Myanmar. The problems that India faces on its north-western part because of hostile relationships with Pakistan and with issues of pipeline security in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. This however is not the case with Myanmar. Therefore having a gas trade relationship with Myanmar is much secure and mutually beneficial. In-case any problem occurs in the north-western side this may act as a contingency plan. This also has another benefit; the gas pipeline from Myanmar via North-East India can be used to develop the region which otherwise due to its difficult terrain is not easy to develop. Development of North-East provides a major strategic advantage to India in dealing with China in terms of monitoring and also preparing required infrastructure to handle any unforeseen situation.
To ensure long-term energy security for its all citizens India should continue to actively pursue multi-pronged strategies. Currently, the Government is focussing on exploiting domestic fossils fuel and renewable energy resources to address ever increasing demand. Simultaneous, New Delhi’s energy diplomacy with energy resource rich countries like the US, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Australia has been unfolding. Even Prime Minister Mr. Modi’s look Africa energy policy adds new dimensions to India’s interest in securing energy equity in Africa and enhancing India’s energy security. Further, clean coal technologies are being pushed to improve supply of much greener energy.
So in order to secure India’s energy future it is necessary for India to explore and exploit domestic fossil resources but seriously acquire fossil resources outside India. To improve energy supply security emphasis should be given to energy diplomacy, international collaborations, and efficient trade partnership. Building necessary energy infrastructure like LNG terminal and pipeline should be pursued with utmost priority. India should take advantage of global supply glut to improve accessibility, affordability, and availability of energy for its citizens. Further, creating investment climate for renewable energy should be facilitated at all levels to bring renewable energy revolution at the earliest.
Decontrol of petroleum product pricing especially petrol and diesel prices takes energy pricing toward market determined pricing. Even gas pricing is more market oriented than ever before. Direct cash transfer on use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for domestic cooking purpose is a step forward to address energy accessibility and affordability. Judiciary and environment regulatory authorities are seriously pushing use of natural gas or green fuels to improve air quality in metro cities. Within a decade the Government intends to increase city gas distribution to 200 geographical areas from current level of 70 geographical areas.
India is certainly capable of addressing existing and future challenges to improve its energy security in the long-run. Moreover, green and renewable energy would play an important role to improve future energy security in the country.
The Potential of Palestinian Gas and the Role of Regional Powers: From Promise to Action
Recent progress on the Gaza marine gas field’s development is positive news and highlights the potential for mutually beneficial agreements in the East Mediterranean. The preliminary approval by Israel of the Palestinian field’s development and exploitation is outcome of mediation efforts exerted by Egypt and Jordan that aimed at de-escalation of tensions and building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis. The benefits of the Palestinian field’s development are multifold and range from advancing energy security in Gaza and providing a substantial windfall for the Palestinian economy to improving Israel’s regional standing and attracting investment for the execution of infrastructure projects within the region.
Strained political relations between Israelis and Palestinians, sporadic Israeli support, concerns that revenues would be used to fund terrorism, and low gas prices have been prime reasons that impeded development of the 23-year-old Gaza marine gas field project. The war on Ukraine and the subsequent global energy crisis, as well as the Israel-Lebanon maritime delimitation agreement brought the Gaza marine gas field project to the forefront and accelerated mediation efforts that led to the preliminary approval by Israel for its development. In case a final agreement is reached, the field that contains 1 trillion cubic feet of gas is expected to generate revenues worth approximately $2.5 billion over its 15-year life span.
The Spirit of the Preliminary Deal
According to the preliminary deal, Egypt’s Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) will develop the field and related infrastructure in pursuance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2021 between the Egyptian state-owned company and the field’s partners namely, the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and Consolidated Constructors Company (CCC). The MoU foresees the transportation of Palestinian gas through a 40-mile pipeline to Egyptian LNG facilities for liquefaction and consumption by the Palestinians, Egypt, and third markets. Development of the field is expected to proceed in three phases: Phase 1 involves extraction of gas from Gaza marine-1, Phase 2 involves construction of the pipeline, and Phase 3 involves the development of Gaza marine-2, a second well closer to Egypt.
The Palestinian Authority will receive gas revenues and the final agreement is expected to be strictly limited in scope prioritizing the exploitation of Gazan gas and leaving outside the issue of recognition between Israel and Hamas. The latter’s tacit approval of the Gaza marine gas field’s development is allegedly outcome of extensive discussions among security officials that favored an Egyptian offer of an economic incentives’ package to Hamas in exchange for a long-term truce (hudna) with Israel. The conversion of the diesel-based Gaza Power Plant to operate on gas produced by the Gaza marine field holds a prime position in the economic incentives’ package. Improvement of living conditions in Gaza for its 2.3 million population is expected to politically benefit Hamas as currently Palestinians experience regular power shortages. In practical terms, Palestinians in Gaza receive an average of 10 hours of electricity per day according to data released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Overall, development of the Gaza marine gas field would provide Palestinians a domestic low-cost energy source, generate revenues for the Palestinian Authority and help Palestinians transition from diesel toward less carbon-intense fuels.
Palestinian Popular Perceptions
Public perceptions in Gaza have been affected by press reports on American mediation efforts for a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel on the precondition that certain concessions are given to the Palestinians. Specifically, majority of the Palestinian public in Gaza and the West Bank maintains that the approval by the most right-wing Israeli government to date for the Gaza marine gas field’s development has been part and parcel of the discussions underway for the oncoming Saudi-Israeli normalization.
An opinion poll released on September 13, 2023, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) reflects this trend. 29 percent in Gaza believes that an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations could improve the chances for reaching Palestinian-Israeli peace. Related to this perception and taking into consideration that 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Gazans view more positively than the West Bankers the Oslo Agreement. As cited in the PCPSR poll, 40 percent of Gazans oppose the abandonment of the Oslo Accords by the Palestinian Authority.
When it comes to Palestinian popular perceptions on the development of the Gaza marine gas field, these are reportedly divided between optimists and pessimists. According to the first group, the field’s development would give a positive shock to the Gazan economy by means of job creation and full payment of salaries for public sector employees. As known, the Palestinian Authority currently withholds monthly salaries of public employees by almost 25 percent. Optimists also expect that gas prices will lower thus lifting much of the economic burden on households. At the political level, optimists support that the advancement of the Palestinian economy could pave the way for intra-Palestinian reconciliation between rival political leaders.
Pessimists, on the other hand, argue that economic benefits will be minimal as tax on Gazan gas is expected to be imposed simultaneously by Hamas, Israel, and Egypt thus minimizing prospects of low energy cost and improved living conditions. In addition, they advocate that the gap between Palestinian factions will widen rather than reconcile. To this end, pessimists cite the failure of Palestinian factions’ leadership to reconcile during the recent Egyptian Summit of El-Alamein.
Egypt’s Multileveled Mediation
Egypt has been well positioned to broker negotiations between Hamas and Israel, while Jordan used its political leverage over the Palestinian Authority and hosted a meeting to ensure that discussions continued unabated. In fact, Egypt and Jordan have been third parties in the Palestinian-Israeli meetings held in Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh where the development of the Gaza marine gas field was at the heart of discussions, and a roadmap was put forward for de-escalation of tensions in Gaza.
The economic and regional benefits that Egypt will get from the Palestinian-Israeli agreement on the Gaza marine gas field’s development have been key to the success of Egyptian mediation. Despite the unchanged nature of Egypt’s cold peace with Israel, Egypt has appeared decisive to help Israelis and Palestinians pitch a vision to create shared solutions on energy challenges and opportunities with the Gaza marine gas field at the epicenter.
As per the terms of the preliminary agreement, Egyptian state-owned EGAS will take over development operations of the Gaza marine gas field and secure financing for the overall project. Financing constitutes a crucial element for the project’s development and requires political risk insurance as well as certain payment guarantees initially provided by EGAS and at a later stage by financial institutions.
Related development plans, that are likely incorporated in the economic incentives’ package offered to Hamas during discussions in exchange for long-term truce, include the construction of a new port to improve living conditions in Gaza. These plans foresee, among other options, either the construction of an Egyptian port in El-Arish so that cargoes are transported to Gaza through Kerem Shalom border crossing at the junction of Gaza, Israel and Egypt, or the construction of a Palestinian port on the Egyptian part of Gaza’s south border. Both options entail a leading Egyptian role that centers on investing in critical infrastructure to support the Gazan economy.
At the regional level, Egyptian successful mediation has enhanced Cairo’s leadership role with an emphasis on geoeconomics. In fact, Egypt seeks to pursue its strategic objectives in the region through attraction of economic inflows to enhance its national security and through creation of economic interdependencies balancing between competition and cooperation among geopolitical rivals. The Gaza marine gas field development falls under the category of projects that can cement regional economic interdependencies through a right balance between security considerations and economic cooperation.
The Art of Jordan’s Shuttle Diplomacy
It is upon this regional logic that Jordan used existing partnerships to prepare the ground for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks with initial focus narrowly on the development of the energy-related project in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority’s empowerment. Jordan’s status as an important regional player and mediator between interested parties has been enhanced as a long-awaited win-win initiative has been finally got back to track.
Jordan stands to benefit from the development of the Gaza marine gas field that can be leveraged to create interdependencies. Jordanian state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) signed in 2015 a Letter of Intent (LoI) with then operator of the Gaza marine field for the supply of approximately 180 million cubic feet (mcf) of gas per day from the Gaza marine field to Jordan. Despite that the LoI is not technically doable at this point due to lack of proper pipeline network, Jordan’s political commitment is timeless.
Development of a regional energy and transportation infrastructure can pave the way for the promotion of quadripartite trade between Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. For example, a “water-energy nexus” in a project where solar can be used to generate energy, which would in turn power desalination plants and generate shared drinking water can prove multiply beneficial. As the Jordanian public is averse to importing Israeli gas, converting it into water could scour the stigma not only facilitating trade but also delivering dividends of peace in the form of shared resources.
An additional project that can enhance interdependencies and complementarities is the proposed development of a monorail that would carry hundreds of containers per day from the Israeli port of Haifa to the Jordanian land port of Haditha thus improving trade and supply chain operations for Palestine, Israel, and Gulf countries. There are certain political roadblocks, however, that must be overcome such as the need to achieve equal access for Israelis and Palestinians, and the consent of Egypt due to the project’s likely impact on the Suez Canal’s traffic.
Jordan stands to benefit from development of gas discoveries offshore Gaza. Aqaba’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal has the potential to become a second regional energy hub. Out of various options, Palestinian gas can be directed to Egyptian liquefaction plants and onward to Jordan, where it could be piped via the Arab Gas Pipeline to Syria, and Lebanon. This scheme would help diversify the region’s energy suppliers and routes. It would also advance Jordan’s energy diversification efforts, which include the import of gas primarily from Egypt, the further development of domestic fields like the Risha gas field, construction of a dual oil and gas pipeline from Iraq, and acceleration of the shift toward renewables.
A Final Note
Unquestionably, energy cooperation and the related economic development along with security considerations were key components that led to the preliminary Palestinian-Israeli agreement on the development of the Gaza marine gas field, with Hamas at the backyard. Considering its promising economic, security, and diplomatic benefits for Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, it has become more than evident that the Gaza marine gas development project must be implemented swiftly. Simply put, a “win-win” enterprise seems to be on the regional horizon!
5 ways to power the energy transition
Transitioning to renewable energy is the key to securing humanity’s survival, as “without renewables, there can be no future”, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, marked on 7 September.Renewable technologies like wind and solar power are, in most cases, cheaper than the fossil fuels that are driving climate change, but the world needs to prioritize the transformation of energy systems to renewable energy.
The Climate Ambition Summit, scheduled for 20 September at UN Headquarters in New York, will consider how to accelerate this transformation.
Here are five ways that acceleration could happen:
1. Shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy
Fossil fuel subsidies are one of the biggest financial barriers hampering the world’s shift to renewable energy.
The UN Secretary-General has consistently called for an end to all international public and private funding of fossil fuels, one of the major contributors to global warming, calling any new investments in them “delusional”.
“All actors must come together to accelerate a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables, as we stop oil and gas expansion and funding and licensing for new coal, oil, and gas,” he said.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that $5.9 trillion was spent on subsidizing the fossil fuel industry in 2020 alone. This figure includes subsidies, tax breaks, and health and environmental damages that were not priced into the initial cost of fossil fuels.
That’s roughly $11 billion a day.
Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy leads to a reduction in their use and also contributes to sustainable economic growth, job creation, better public health, and more equality, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.
2. Triple investments in renewables
An estimated $4 trillion a year needs to be invested in renewable energy until 2030 in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Net zero is the term which describes achieving the balance between carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon removed from it.
Investment in renewables will cost significantly less compared to subsidizing fossil fuels. The reduction of pollution and climate impact alone could save the world up to $4.2 trillion per year by 2030.
The funding is there, but commitment and accountability are needed, particularly from global financial systems. This includes multilateral development banks and other financial institutions, which must align their lending portfolios towards accelerating the renewable energy transition.
“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities,” the UN chief said.
He has further urged “all governments to prepare energy transition plans” and encouraged “CEOs of all oil and gas companies to be part of the solution”.
3. Make renewable energy technology a global public good
For renewable energy technology to be a global public good, meaning available to all and not just to the wealthy, efforts must aim to dismantle roadblocks to knowledge-sharing and the transfer of technology, including intellectual property rights barriers.
Essential technologies such as battery storage systems allow energy from renewables to be stored and released when people, communities, and businesses need power.
When paired with renewable generators, battery storage technologies can provide both reliable and cheaper electricity to isolated grids and off-grid communities in remote locations, for example, in India, Tanzania, and Vanuatu.
4. Improve global access to components and raw materials
A robust supply of renewable energy components and raw materials is a game changer. More widespread access to all the key components and materials is needed, from the minerals required for building wind turbines and electricity networks to elements for producing electric vehicles.
The UN’s International Seabed Authority is currently working with its Member States on how to exploit such abundant mineral resources in international waters as those crucial for manufacturing batteries while ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed-related activities.
It will take significant international coordination to expand and diversify manufacturing capacity globally. Greater investments are needed, including in people’s skills training, research and innovation, and incentives to build supply chains through sustainable practices that protect ecosystems.
5. Level the playing field for renewable energy technologies
While global cooperation and coordination is critical, domestic policy frameworks must urgently be reformed to streamline and fast-track renewable energy projects and catalyse private sector investments.
Technology, capacity, and funds for renewable energy transition exist, but policies and processes must be introduced to reduce market risks to both enable and incentivise investment, while simultaneously preventing bottlenecks and red tape.
Nationally determined contributions, or countries’ individual action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts, must set renewable energy targets that align with the goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels.
To achieve this, it is estimated that the share of renewables in global electricity generation must grow from 29 per cent today to 60 per cent by 2030.
Women of the Global South Are Key to the Energy Transition
As a businesswoman who has dedicated my life to elevating opportunities for African women, I’ve seen how the historical exclusion of women – and especially women from Africa and the Global South – from international climate talks has derailed climate action.
Only by rectifying this systematic marginalisation of women can Africa fulfil its true potential as a leading global renewables powerhouse.
That is why I am celebrating attempts at the Africa Climate Summit, the first of its kind being held in my home country Kenya, to push back against entrenched gender inequalities.
If we fail to marry the energy transition with the goal of empowering women, the continent will not succeed in combating climate change.
In a ground-breaking move, the African Union Commission, which represents 55 African countries, signed a joint statement with the Government of Kenya and the UAE presidency of the upcoming COP28 UN talks in Dubai, endorsing the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency to stay within the 1.5C safe limit for global warming. The statement also calls for a “comprehensive systems change”, including the need to transform “food and health systems” while protecting nature and biodiversity.
Neither African governments nor previous COP presidencies have placed such wildly ambitious goals on the political agenda before. And although these goals have not yet taken the shape of a binding agreement, they are being supported with real action.
At the Africa Climate Summit, COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jabr announced that the COP28 presidency itself will invest $4.5 billion to mobilise up to tens of billions more in African clean energy projects. According to Al Jabr, the point of the pledge is “to clearly demonstrate the commercial case for clean investment across this continent” and to create “a scalable model that can be replicated to help put Africa on a superhighway to low carbon growth”.
This is a huge milestone—with one major caveat: women must become linchpins in the continent’s new, evolving clean energy landscape.
That means overturning years of women being side-lined in climate talks and overlooked in governmental and institutional planning. Just 9% of energy project aid focuses on gender equality, and the UN’s clean energy goal (SDG7) omits gender entirely.
Currently women bear the worst impacts of climate change and energy poverty, accounting for 80% of food production and over 60% of agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet over three-quarters of total public climate-development finance in Africa this decade failed to consider gender at all.
And across Africa, women are marginalised from politics, education and employment. Previous UN climate talks have in effect discussed an ‘energy transition’ by and for men.
This gender-blindness is literally killing the planet. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to lead them into policies aligned with the goal of capping climate change at 1.5C; and women around the world overall do more than men to change their behaviour to reduce emissions: so excluding them is an existential risk.
That’s why I’m celebrating how this week African nations are uniting for the first time not just to combat Africa’s climate threat, but also to highlight the gender inequalities preventing us from implementing real solutions.
As the First Lady of Kenya, Rachel Ruto, pointed out at the summit, only by equipping women with knowledge and skills can they be empowered to become champions of clean energy and sustainability. She convened a meeting of senior women leaders at the summit to focus on the critical importance of women to the success of the energy transition.
The lessons of the Africa Climate Summit must be taken all the way to the United Nations climate talks later this year. The goal of tripling renewable energy capacity, as the African Union Commission has now endorsed, is only one half of the equation. The other half is removing the barriers preventing women from racing toward this target. This must be enshrined in any global agreement – without it, not only Africa’s but the world’s clean energy transition will fail.
There are signs of progress. COP28 has already appointed women to senior roles representing the presidency, with Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Community Development, appointed as Youth Climate Champion and Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature appointed as the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion.
And just under half of COP28’s advisory committee are women, a big step-up compared to previous COPs which failed to include women at a senior role. The presidency has also called on all delegations to explicitly increase the role of women and young people in negotiations to make this “the most inclusive” COP.
Yet though these are big milestones, they are still baby steps. It’s time for world leaders to recognise that without empowering the world’s women on the frontlines of the battle against climate change, no global agreements will produce the change we need.
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