A survey of more than two million Africans finds that climate change comes dead last of 16 concerns they were asked about.
OK, It’s an internet survey. But who would take cold meals and cholera now so their great grandchildren live in a world a tenth of a degree cooler?
Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.
There is a growing backlash against this policy. The Republicans want to reverse it. Yvo de Boer, head of the Global Green Growth Institute, says: “You really have to be able to offer these countries an economically viable alternative, before you begin to rule out coal.” And Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, says it is hypocritical for western governments, made rich by fossil fuels, “to say to African countries, ‘You cannot develop dams, you cannot develop coal, just rely on these very expensive renewables’. African countries will not listen.”
The Center for Global Development calculates that $10 billion invested in renewable energy technology in sub-Saharan Africa could give 20-27 million people access to basic electricity, whereas the same sum spent on gas-fired generation would supply 90 million.
Meanwhile, China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, is stepping in as the Americans and Europeans step back. Its willingness to fund coal projects is one of the reasons other Asian countries are rushing to join the project, to the irritation of Washington. The Australian government is joining forces with Japan to push for the construction of “clean coal” plants in the developing world — power stations that burn coal more efficiently.
Africans finds that