Authors : Marie-Camille Attard, Carley Reynolds, Kim Coetzee, Jonas Hörsch, Lara Welder, Kouassigan Tovivo, Deborah Ramalope, Claire Fyson, Bill Hare
Affiliated organisation : Climate Analytics
Site of publication : analytics.org
Type of publication : Report
Date of publication : 2022
Africa’s historical and current contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions are low. When excluding land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), Africa’s emissions accounted for 7% of global emissions in 2019.
However, Africa’s emissions (excluding LULUCF) have increased 82% from 1990 to 2019, more than the global average of 52%. This growth has mostly been driven by rapid population growth and by rising consumption of fossil fuels. Emissions risk increasing significantly without commitment to low- carbon growth and sufficient support from developed countries.
The energy sector is the largest source of emissions in Africa when the LULUCF sector is excluded, contributing about 55% to total emissions in 2019, followed by agriculture. Industrial processes contributed just 5% in the same year.
Forests are critical resources for many communities, with over 60% of Africans directly or indirectly dependent on them. However, between 2015 and 2020, Africa lost up to 4.4 million hectares of forest annually, driven primarily by shifting agriculture. Furthermore, up to 65% of productive land is degraded and desertification affects 45% of Africa’s land area.
Primary energy overview
Under 1.5°C compatible pathways, the share of decarbonised electricity is expected to grow as a means to decarbonise the energy system. This shift will intrinsically be linked to the development of electricity access across the continent. Most of the continent’s households rely on traditional biomass as their primary energy source for cooking, more predominant in rural areas, which also has severe impacts on health.
Power sector overview
In 2017, approximately 84% of Africa’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation was produced by six countries – South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Nigeria (IRENA 2021), all major coal, oil or gas producers.
While it has historically dominated the power mix, the share of coal-based power generation in Africa has been overtaken by gas-based power generation over the past decade (IEA, 2020). Nevertheless, coal still accounted for around 30% of the continent’s power mix in 2019.
The majority of operating gas power plants are still relatively young, less than 30 years old, and are expected to be running in the next two decades (Global Energy Monitor, 2021b). The rising trend in gas production in Africa is expected to continue under current policies, given the recent discovery of gas reserves on the continent. Our analysis of 1.5°C compatible pathways, both at the global and national levels, reveals that if planned gas power plants were to be built, they would likely end up as stranded assets.
The vulnerability of fossil fuels dependant countries in a world shifting to low-carbon economies
A recent study on the impact of a low-carbon scenario on government revenues from oil and gas production indicates that government revenues in Africa could, in a world shifting to a low carbon scenario, drop by 58% over a period 2021-2040 compared to industry expectations (The Carbon Tracker Initiative, 2021b). The resilience of governments to such revenue losses will vary between countries, depending on macroeconomic and political parameters.
While some countries could see the exploitation of oil and gas reserve as an opportunity to address existing and pressing socio-economic challenges, this may not necessarily be the case. Fossil fuels are starting to show a slowdown in demand, and this trend is expected to continue, and likely having negative impacts on economies that rely on these sectors.
It is important that governments consider investing in technologies of the future, such as renewable energies, instead of investing in fossil fuel infrastructure which will end up as stranded assets, leading to high financial vulnerability.
Africa’s historical and current contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions are low. When excluding land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), Africa’s emissions accounted for 7% of global emissions in 2019
A sustainable energy system consistent with the Paris Agreement
In order to make a fair contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals, developed countries need to both take domestic emissions reduction action and assist developing countries to reduce their emissions. Support can be in the form of climate finance or other support for mitigation, consistent with the Paris Agreement.
The fair share and equity considerations embedded in the Paris Agreement imply that without support, a developing country would only be expected to reduce its emissions to its “fair share” range. Any gap between this fair share range and the 1.5°C compatible domestic pathway could likely only be bridged with support from developed countries in one form or another.
The 1.5°C compatible pathways considered in this report are not aligned with a given equity principle. They are, however, aligned with the notion of “highest plausible ambition” in that they represent transitions that are technically and economically feasible.
Global mitigation pathways consistent with the Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal
The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C (SR1.5) outlines pathways for limiting global warming to 1.5°C and assesses global, regional, and sectoral transformations in the near-, mid-, and long-term, as well as synergies and trade-offs for sustainable development. In these 1.5°C mitigation pathways, total greenhouse gas emissions peak around 2020 and decrease rapidly, reducing CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero CO2 by 2050 and net zero GHG by around 2070 globally.
Implications of the IPCC 1.5°C SR for mitigation pathways and sectoral transformation in Africa
The pace of emissions reductions to 2030 and in the coming decades, and the feasible timeframe for achieving these decarbonisation pathways will be influenced by the progress to date in transitioning to a renewables-based energy system, the capacity to invest in new infrastructure, carbon removal and storage potential, and the share of emissions from harder-to-abate sectors that will require technological innovation to decarbonise. In these models, those countries/regions that have already made good progress in decarbonising their economies will decarbonise at a faster pace than other regions.
Decarbonisation pathways are characterised by a transformation of the energy system mainly through a sharp reduction of the use of fossil fuels in primary energy and in the power sector combined with the electrification of end-use sectors such as transport, industry, and buildings (Schaeffer et al., 2019). Our analysis of Paris Agreement-aligned global and regional coal phase-out requirements indicates that Africa and the Middle-East region should phase out coal around 2034. (Climate Analytics, 2019).
International support needs to be scaled up to support decarbonisation in Africa
At COP26, the African Group of negotiators along with a group of 24 “like minded” countries, opened discussions on the post-2025 climate finance goal, pushing developed countries to commit to mobilise USD 1.3 trillion per year. However, the COP concluded with only a commitment to a process to agree on a goal.
In 2020, only 3% of total climate finance commitments (domestic and international) went to Africa and the Middle East. Further, climate finance is not necessarily distributed between countries in a way that reflects their needs.
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