The European Union and France are out to “hijack” the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), a five-year, $10-billion plan to add at least 300 gigawatts to the continent’s renewable energy supplies by 2030, according to a letter issued this week by nearly 200 civil society organizations (CSOs) from three dozen African countries.
AREI was launched with great fanfare at the Paris conference, with WWF Africa Climate Change Coordinator Asrat Yirgu pointing to its potential to “transform Africa’s energy systems, grow African economies, and help improve energy access.” Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, stressed that “African countries are driving this initiative, and other countries are supporting it with finance and technology. This is exactly the kind of collaborative, large-scale action we need if we hope to forge a path to a safer climate future. It is also the latest example that shows we can have both zero carbon and zero poverty.”
But “AREI’s integrity and promise of bringing light and energy to Africa’s people is now being gravely threatened by the efforts of the European Union and France for premature, undue approval of ‘their’ projects, and seeming attempts to co-opt the initiative to serve their ends, supported by a small handful of Africans,” the African CSOs warn. They accuse the Europeans of publicly announcing 19 new projects worth €4.8 billion when they’re only putting up 1/16th of the funding, not all the projects are actually new or based on renewable energy, and AREI’s project review process hasn’t been followed.
They add that the projects benefit a couple of participating African countries, but were announced over the objections of others.
“While we acknowledge that the EU has scaled up support for African renewables since COP21 in Paris, these most recent behaviours are completely unacceptable. Recycling existing projects as ‘new’ ones for AREI virtually ensures it will fail to meet its goal of 10 billion watts [10 GW] of ‘new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020’, leaving Africans in the dark,” the sign-on states.
“These carefully staged interferences in Africa’s institutions threaten not merely the potential of AREI to deliver new renewable energy,” the statement adds. “They call into question the independence and sanctity of African governance arrangements, including the African Union.”
The groups are calling on the EU and France to “step aside and abandon any aspirations to have seats” on the AREI board, ensure full accountability and participation for African states and civil society, suspend the 19 endorsed projects until they’ve been fully reviewed, and make sure all future funding and projects are truly “new and additional” to renewable energy work that is already under way. (h/t to Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid for pointing us to this story)