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Wycliffe Osabwa: Why Africa must now be tactful on carbon credits

Africa has, at last, woken from her slumber as concerns the hot topic of carbon credits. A carbon credit is defined as one tonne of carbon dioxide gas an entity is permitted to emit. But such is paid for (purchase of carbon credits) so that the entity gains permission to generate the offensive gas.

It’s tantamount to payment in anticipation of committing an offence. But it turns out that Africa produces the least carbon dioxide gas, yet it’s never compensated by the developed nations that are the major offenders. Worse, the said offenders would rather compensate their own regions, in spite of Africa.

Africa needs to take other steps even as it chases the issue of carbon credits. The North has never been committed enough to the issue of reparations when it comes to Africa. From 2009, when a promise of US$100 billion compensation was made, to last year’s COP27 when another in the name of Loss and Damage was vouched, it’s predictable that very little may change.

Endless negotiations

So which way forward? Africa can make a bold statement by boycotting the upcoming 28th Conference of Parties. In place of attendance, they can elect to send a lean team, say representatives from the African Union, to table their grievances. There is no point in engaging in endless negotiations that bear no fruits.

Africa must equally interrogate its role in alleviating climate change. How, for instance, does the continent abet the North in their continued emissions? We know too well that large-scale industrial activities contribute to carbon emissions, a case in point being the use of coal in energy generation.

Yet, Africa is part of the market for products processed or manufactured by the North. Is it possible for the southern world to work towards strengthening their manufacturing industry as well as markets, in a bid to reduce imports? See, it’s better for us to harm ourselves through locally produced emissions than power those emitted elsewhere. Further, Africa has higher chances of decarbonising the atmosphere by virtue of its numerous carbon sinks that are forests.

Africa may also think of controlling her population growth. Climate change is a function of human activities. Higher populations imply higher consumption of goods and services. In Africa, it further implies higher rates of poverty, the latter being a contributor to activities that trigger climate change – for instance use of firewood and kerosene.

Enough information

But Africa must be wary of the middle and higher classes who compete in owning jalopies that produce more emissions. The continent must also disseminate enough information concerning climate change. For instance, we have many initiatives that work towards reducing emissions. Consider energy-saving stoves which, for locals, only work to reduce smoke!

No one talks about how these magic tools lead to the conservation of trees, much less, their curbing of further carbon emissions. Another example is the energy-saving electric bulb. This not only cuts down power costs but also reduces the demand for more power from suppliers, hence, less power will be generated. Power generation is a contributor to carbon emissions.

 Such small steps may translate into huge profits. As African countries plan to face the North, they may consider stressing the moral aspect as opposed to the legal one on carbon credits. Also, they should be wary of their individual interests in matters economy and geopolitics.

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