Carbon neutrality?

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2 months ago

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By Kabelo Mollo

It’s been a while since I waded in to treacherous territory. That being the case, perhaps its best I dust off the cobwebs and get stuck in to it. I have a question that is more leading or is it leaning? Either way you’ll decide for yourself once I’ve asked it.

And the question is this. With COP27 happening in Egypt as I type this, and knowing what we know, I have been grappling with whether or not Africa isn’t being asked to subsidize the growth and development of the so called first world at the expense of its own. These economies were allowed to industrialise and pollute to their hearts content using coal and gas. Now when its Africa’s turn, we have to be not just cognisant of the environment but, actually cowtow to it. All the while our natural resources would allow us to grow at double digits.

I was listening to a Kenyan-American green economy expert yesterday at COP27 and she was making the case for a green economy on the African continent. I can’t remember how many times she mentioned that Africa is worst affected by climate change. She cited droughts and floods from East, West and to a lesser extent Southern Africa. She was emotive and direct as she belaboured these points. I remember how many times she mentioned Africa’s combined carbon emissions because she made that mention exactly once. Four percent is Africa’s contribution to the pollution. And yet, here we are being made to feel as though we ought to bear the lion’s share of the burden.

I remember when “Sustainability” and “environmental impact” became buzzwords in the late 90s and early 00s. It felt as though we were all in it together as humans. It was as though we were going to take this challenge on and overcome it together. Earth hour and earth day, were supported all across the globe. I remember being at a mate’s house for a party and switching off the lights in support of Earth Hour. We weren’t just doing it for the ambience and as a seduction trope. It was a genuine belief that every little bit counted. But then, as time went by it began to seem like the behemoth economies were going to carry on burning fossil fuels and kicking the can further and further down the road. It didn’t matter what agreements were reached at various summits. The big nations carried on unabated. Until we’ve got to this point now where least developed and developing nations are being incentivised with carbon credits and development funding.

I’m not a climate change naysayer. Not at all, in fact quite the contrary I see (and feel) the difference in the small corner of the world I occupy. I recognise we have a long term problem, but I also don’t care to carry the can for others selfishness. Because, really that’s what it is. These developed nations could have taken their foot off the proverbial gas long ago to allow for carbon neutrality and climate equilibrium but their greed didn’t allow. Now us young ambitious folks from the third world are being directed to a growth path that is still largely experimental and capital intensive. As I say in mitigation the development funds and those who care for the planet are promising heaven and earth with their credits and green funds but the low hanging fruit of coal and gas is being taken out of reach. On my own, sitting and pondering life, I don’t love the principal. It talks to a latent inequality that makes me uncomfortable.

Its strange because this issue is at odds with my liberal sensibilities. In theory I am all for a clean green economy. In fact, even in practice I am, I’m just not comfortable with the low hanging fruits of fossil fuels being taken completely off the table for our continent that actually desperately requires double digit economic growth.

Anyway, this is far as I’m going to take this ponderous thought of mine. I open to comment and debate as ever, and look forward to dialogue on this matter…

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