Western politics harms Africa and the planet, kills millions and opens doors to China
Joe Biden has pledged that one of his first acts as President will be to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement – allowing China a full transition to emissions reduction by at least 2030. Even Biden's designated "climate envoy," says former Foreign Secretary John Kerry. The existing treaty "must be stronger," but then claims that China will somehow become an active partner rather than the competitor and adversary it is clearly. His reasoning: "The climate is essential, it is just as important for China as it is for us."
As for China, which is adopting more green technology and complying with the Paris Agreement (much less empowering), the evidence is spotty at best and quite the opposite at worst. President Trump pulled the United States out of Paris, but between January 2017 and May 2019 the US closed 50 coal-fired power plants, with 51 additional shutdowns announced, bringing the total shutdown to 289 (330 once-announced shutdowns have also occurred since 2010) , soon to leave under 200 still in operation.
Meanwhile, China had 2,363 active coal-fired power plants as of 2019 and built another 1,171 in the Middle Kingdom – plus hundreds more in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. A white paper from the CO2 coalition by Kathleen Hartnett White and Caleb Rossiter shows that China now has modern pollutant scrubbing technologies for over 80% of its coal-fired power plants, but no scrubbers in China-built coal-fired power plants in Africa (or probably somewhere else) – and nowhere else, where carbon dioxide is removed.
Edward Cunningham, a Harvard University specialist in China, says China is building, planning or funding more than 300 coal-fired power plants in locations as widely as Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. India, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, and even Germany are also building hundreds of coal-fired power plants. No matter how many US closes, it won't make a global difference.
Boston University data shows that China has invested over $ 50 billion in building new coal-fired power plants overseas in the past few years, and over a quarter of new coal-fired power plants outside of China have an obligation or offer of funds from Chinese financial institutions.
"Why does China rely on coal worldwide?" NPR wonders. This is a commitment of 40 or even 50 years, the life of coal-fired power plants. The NPR authors even quote the Southeast Asia analyst at the Stinson Center Think Tank who says, "It's not clear from looking at the actual projects that China is funding that they are really green." They are obviously not green and there is obviously more going on than their poor eyesight can tell.
China knows and the world will need oil, natural gas and coal in the decades to come. She sees “green” as the color of money and is happy to grant loans on terms that are very favorable for China. The Communist Party leaders seek global military and economic power – and global control over the generation of electricity, raw materials and manufacture of the wind turbines, solar panels and battery modules that they will sell to stop the West's obsession with the "man-made climate crisis" and the To counteract “renewable energies”, sustainable energy.
The party leaders also know that the production of "green" technologies is a good smoke screen for all this coal power – and few Western governments will dare to sharply criticize China about this or about Covid.
A recent report by the Global Warming Policy Foundation described environmentalists (such as John Kerry) as "useful idiots" who "praise the extent of China's ambitions for climate change while paying lip service to criticism of China's massive coal expansion." It should be noted that China rarely complies with its international agreements and does not intend to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
But what should Africa and other developing countries do? The West is not even going to fund clean coal projects that clean up dung and wood fire pollution while providing reliable, affordable electricity for lights, refrigerators, schools, shops, hospitals, factories, and more. China will – and despite the high price, their demand for energy requires that they receive electricity by whatever means necessary.
With 1.1 billion people, sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world, despite massive natural resources and a young, energetic population with an affinity for entrepreneurship. Dutch economist Wim Naudé says Africa needs to industrialize, which means it needs to have affordable, reliable electricity in order to overcome poverty and disease, create jobs and put an end to terrorism.
Unfortunately, the policies of the US, the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank have horribly hampered the development of Africa's energy resources. As White and Rossiter note, US policy since the Obama era has been against Africans using the continent's abundant coal and gas as fuel for power plants on the grounds that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels could exacerbate climate change.
The Chairman of the African Chamber of Energy, NJ Ayuk, recently reported that the UK has also decided to stop funding new oil, gas and coal projects from November 4, 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Paris Treaty. The decision speaks against the support of the Greens against the support of British export finance for a Mozambique terminal for the export of liquefied natural gas with low CO2 emissions.
Ayuk had touted natural gas as an increasing option for African power plants, boasting that Africa is home to four of the world's top 20 crude oil producers (Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and Libya)); Algeria and Nigeria are among the 20 largest natural gas producers. and Mozambique also has huge gas reserves.
"It is worrying," said Ayuk, "that an aggressive, foreign-funded anti-African energy campaign continues to undermine the potential to turn Mozambique into a haven for gas monetization and meet our growing energy needs." Despite this setback, he continued: "We must remain steadfast in advocating for the African energy sector, its workers, the reduction of energy poverty and the values of the free market that make our continent attractive to committed energy investors."
In large parts of Africa, demand for electricity far exceeds supply. "In factories, businesses, government buildings and affluent neighborhoods in every African country," said White and Rossiter, a cacophonic symphony of soot-spitting diesel engines erupts when the power grid fails, which usually happens every day. "According to the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, many African countries spend more on dirty emergency power than they do on the grid itself. In West Africa, backup kilowatts account for 40% of total grid kilowatts.
In Sudan, which draws 30% of its energy from dams on the Nile, diesel pumps run continuously to pump river water for irrigation, even at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile. In Nigeria, hotels prohibit guests from jogging because of health hazards from inhaling soot from their diesel backup generators, which occurs repeatedly when the neighborhood becomes dark. In southern Africa, construction sites simply run generators all day long, filling nearby roads with noxious clouds. Universities rely on diesel to run old, inefficient air conditioning systems.
White and Rossiter note that American clean coal technology, exemplified by the Turkish power plant in Arkansas, virtually eliminates health risks from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates. They urge the US to support proposals by African governments to import this technology and state that electricity is “the central nervous system of a modern economy and modern life expectancy. Africa's electricity deficit leads directly to a life expectancy deficit of 15 years per person. "
Millions die unnecessarily each year from myriad diseases of energy and economic poverty.
But under a Biden-Harris administration with John Kerry at its head, there is little hope that these African and other requests will be heard. With European allies in short-sighted Puritan lockstep, China will continue to have the ability to meet the Greens' demands – and it will have a free hand to transform sub-Saharan Africa into a vast Chinese colony, despite environmental damage, immense debts, slaves and children, and labor under terrible working conditions and probably modest benefits for Africans.
It's eco-imperialism and eco-manslaughter at worst. Where are the vaunted guardians of climate and environmental justice?
Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research on the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org).