By Kofi Adu Domfeh
Former US Vice President Al Gore is in Accra for the first time to lead the 54th Climate Reality Leadership Training. The session is one of the largest gatherings of scientists, experts and youth across the African continent providing overview of the latest climate science, existing policies, solutions and opportunities for advocates to make a difference.
Al Gore has acknowledged developing countries have done the least to cause the global crisis, but are often hit the hardest by the impacts of the climate crisis, partly because they have less resources to be resilient and to defend the infrastructure and the people who are affected.
He believes “we need to reform the global system for the allocation of capital so that resources are more easily available in developing countries to participate in this sustainability revolution that’s based on solar energy and wind energy, electric vehicles, batteries, regenerative agriculture and other solutions”.
Ahead of COP28 climate talks in Dubai, Al Gore is concerned that the worldwide effort to achieve net-zero emissions is being driven by the fossil fuel industry, neglecting vital and essential advancements in achieving key targets.
A critical subject at the global climate talks is the call for developing economies, like Ghana, to decarbonize.
Ghana has for the past decade regarded its crude oil production as a vital resource for national development and funding source for the country’s net-zero ambitions.
With huge oil reserves remaining untapped, Ghana’s Energy Minister has stated that the country faces a real risk of stranded multi-billion oil and gas assets due to reduced funding for fossil-related projects, as the world transitions to cleaner sources of energy.
At a media roundtable, Kofi Adu Domfeh posed two critical questions to Al Gore.
Question: Do you think Ghana is in a position to lead the fossil fuel decolonization?
Answer: Yes, I do think that Ghana could lead fossil fuel decolonisation. The way Ghana led decolonization of governments on the continent of Africa, the very first country to gain independence. I use that in an effort to inspire a change, but it’s also an accurate history of what the people of Ghana have done in the past.
So we are seeing what some economists have called a resource curse, with over-dependence on one resource, fossil fuels, oil and gas, and even coal. And as someone said in one of the panels today, 86% of the foreign exchange is coming from fossil fuels, but only 0.6% of the income paid out to people who have jobs is coming from fossil fuels. So that means that the money from fossil fuels is going much more to the wealthy elites. And that is what happened during the period of colonization many decades ago.
So economic independence from fossil fuel colonization can be achieved with the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels and the redirection of public funding to help subsidize the renewable sources of energy, which are cheaper, cleaner, provide more jobs. So, I do think that Ghana could lead this needed change on the continent of Africa.
Question: Going to COP28, do you see the advanced economies getting committed to developing economies like Ghana in terms of delivering on the climate finance promises that we’ve been expecting for all this long period of time?
Answer: I think there is likely to be a commitment for more money from the private sector to developed countries to developing countries. I think that the amount that is committed unfortunately may not reach the levels that leaders in developing countries would like to see. And it’s never easy to describe political realities.
But I think my religious faith teaches me that it is fair and right for wealthy countries to give more money to poor countries. But my previous lifetime in politics years ago taught me that persuading the voters to give their money to other countries is often difficult. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.
So yes, I think there will be an additional commitment of funding. But the total amount will probably lead many leaders in developing countries to say that’s not enough. The real source of money that is needed is going to come from the private sector.
And in order to unlock those flows from the private sector, there need to be policy reforms like the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels and reforms at the international level, such as changes at the World Bank and multilateral development banks to make it possible for countries like Ghana to gain access to the private investment capital.
Earlier, the question of Ghana’s role in fossil fuel decolonization was posed to Mohamed Adow, Founder and Director of Power Shift Africa.
He maintains Africa does not need the dirty energy of the past, but needs forward looking leadership that can take advantage of the clean energy of the present and future.
“How can you help decolonize Africa so that we can decarbonize and help put this continent on a sustainable path? Our opportunity is here today so that the continent of Africa can make the most out of the 21st-century energy solutions. There is no future in charging in the footsteps of the polluter. There is opportunity in leapfrogging and leading the world in a new direction,” said Mohamed.
At COP28, there will be demands on global leaders to phase out fossil fuel emissions and stop funding fossil fuel projects; increase funding for climate solutions in countries that need it most; and reform future COP processes so fossil fuel interest cannot block progress.