CLIMATE CHANGE

Sustainable energy answer to global warming

Coal is being exploited in some African countries, hindering progress towards climate action.

In Summary
  • Kenya and Africa at large are still struggling in the energy sector with staggeringly high numbers of people lacking access to clean energy.
  • This means people will continue exploiting relatively cheap sources of energy that emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in global warming.
Wajir residents walk past a carcass. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening countries.
Wajir residents walk past a carcass. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening countries.
Image: FILE

Climate change is undeniably a global problem that requires urgent action from all quotas; private and government agencies from the grassroots to national and the international communities. The effects of climate change have been felt far and wide both in the developing, emerging and developed nations – remember the 2019 heat waves in Europe and America, floods and cyclones in Africa and Asia?

The energy sector is considered one of the main contributors to climate change. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), energy is a leading agent of climate change responsible for approximately 60 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, with about 3 billion people relying on coal, charcoal, animal waste, or wood for cooking and heating which is unsustainable. To this effect, UNEP further notes, since 1990, there has been an increase in global emissions of carbon dioxide gas by over 46%.

Kenya and Africa at large are still struggling in the energy sector with staggeringly high numbers of people lacking access to clean energy. Hydropower, which is the primary source of electricity, is extremely expensive for low-income earners.

This means people will continue exploiting relatively cheap sources of energy that emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in global warming.

Coal, for instance, is being exploited in some African countries, while some like Kenya is considering establishing new coal power plants. Such advances hinder progress towards action on climate change.

Investing in sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal is crucial in addressing climate change. Africa has a huge potential going by the recent unveilings, for instance, the mega solar power plant in Rwanda and wind power plants in Turkana, Kenya.

Speaking to Mr. Michele Governatori, an energy expert, scholar and environment writer based in Rome, Italy with a keen interest in the energy sector in Africa, regarding his view regarding energy sustainability and climate change, he said,

While arguments that Africa contributes negligible amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere compared to the developed world, the effects of climate change occasioned in one part of the world will be felt in another.

“Africa is by far the fastest-growing continent in terms of population with a projection of about 2.5 billion people in 2050, according to the UN. This is more than enough to argue that what happens in Africa in terms of energy and environment will be key to determine whether the world will cope with climate change or not.

"The UN targeted 2030 as the year when the world’s population should be connected to electricity, but in Kenya, for example, a large population is not connected yet. Access to electricity means going clean energy, promoting a switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources. However, energy systems need to be reliable.”

Clean and sustainable energy sources are of environmental good; hence, the need for all nations to avoid the use of fossil fuels.

I also spoke to Raymond Mwakirani, a geologist at the Geothermal Development Company, Kenya, on his vide on the contribution of geothermal power in addressing climate change, he had the following to say,

“Geothermal energy is clean and sustainable as it reduces the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Once geothermal plants have been set up, the cost of maintenance is low and can be exploited over a long period. The use of improved technology to harvest geothermal energy in Kenya has enhanced efficiency promoting maximum exploitation compared to other sources.”

Besides, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) argues that renewable energy sources could account for four-fifths of the world’s electricity by 2050, thus, drastically reducing the amount of carbon emissions, eventually helping in alleviating the effects of climate change.

While arguments that Africa contributes negligible amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere compared to the developed world, the effects of climate change occasioned in one part of the world will be felt in another.

Therefore, African countries need to refocus their resources in creating and investing in clean, modern and sustainable energy sources as a mechanism of mitigating climate change.

Environment scientist