The real promise of COP 27: African energy can build Africa and save Europe

Fresh from hosting a sold-out African Energy Week, African Energy Chamber President NJ Ayuk announced that “I am going to COP 27 because I believe if Africa is not at the table, it will be on the menu.” This first Council of the Parties to convene in Africa since 2011 may well signal a turning of the United Nations’ goals away from its rigid anti-fossil fuels crusade.

Ayuk, an energy lawyer and deal maker in petroleum and power, is perhaps the continent’s most visible champion of granting Africans the same grace on energy development given to China and India. The world’s two largest nations, which along with the African continent are home to about 1.25 billion people, are expanding their use of fossil fuels to build their economies. Africans want the same opportunity to strengthen their economies with their own abundant oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.

Given that the bullies of the EU and UN tremble before their Chinese, Indian, and even Russian compadres, their demands that Africa eschew traditional economic development are increasingly falling on deaf ears across the world’s largest continent.

The worldwide revolt against the abolition of carbon-based energy, “fueled” by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, has dampened the spirits of climate catastrophists (if not their rhetoric). The prospects for accelerating the “march” toward Net Zero have been further dimmed by the absence of Xi Jinpeng, Vladimir Putin, and Narendra Modi.

By contrast, newly inaugurated German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is facing severe energy shortfalls, is attending. So are British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emanuel Macron, and U.S. President Joe Biden (along with his climate envoy John Kerry in his final mission for the Biden White House. [Is Kerry planning a 2024 run?]

At COP 27’s opening, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres pleaded with attendees that, “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” as he called for an accelerated transition from fossil fuels and more funding to developing nations to eschew fossil fuel development. Such a path, he warned, is a “highway to hell.”

Opponents of African energy development point to a 2021 report, The Sky’s Limit Africa, which concluded that new extraction projects in Africa (a planned $230 billion today and $1.4 trillion by 2050) “are not compatible with a safe climate future.” The report further insisted that fossil fuel projects “do not constitute development, jobs, or energy access for Africans.”

Ugandan “climate justice activist” Evelyn Acham insists that “Europe’s response to the energy and cost of living crises must not be to promote new oil and gas extraction and export infrastructure” in Africa. She claims that an EU-led ‘dash for gas’ would be “dangerous and short-sighted, threatening communities in both Africa and Europe.” With what? Prosperity?

These harangues come at a time when the climate winds have suddenly shifted. Just prior to COP 26, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which signed up over 500 of the world’s largest banks, pledged to use their financial leverage to force Net Zero by refusing to finance oil and gas projects.

Just last year, the West’s major oil companies also promised drastic cuts to their carbon footprints. But today, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth admits that fossil fuels are “going to run the world tomorrow and five years from now, 10 years from not, 20 years from now.” It is time, he adds, that governments hold an ‘honest conversation’ about the scale of the energy challenge.

As for bankers, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, when asked about committing to end funding of fossil fuel projects, retorted, “Absolutely not, and that would be the road to hell for America.” [Meanwhile, Joe Biden pledges to end all production of both coal and oil in the United States.]

Ayuk sniffs at pandering prognosticators like Vermonter Bill McKibben, who claims that the East African Crude Oil Pipeline – which would transport a measly 210,000 barrels of oil per day — would by itself derail the world’s entire carbon reduction scheme.

Instead, Ayuk contends that “the huge number of Africans without electricity is morally wrong, and it cannot be ignored,” given that access to affordable, reliable electricity is one of the United Nations’ own sustainable development goals – a basic human right.

Renowned economist Tilak Doshi, echoing Ayuk, says that “Asking Africans to leave their fossil fuels resources in the ground in return for charitable handouts and ‘development finance’ from virtue-signaling Western governments and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank to invest on unreliable solar and wind power is not only immoral and unconscionable but plainly unworkable.”

Doshi chides International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol for claiming that energy policymakers “regret not moving faster to build solar and wind plants” while ignoring the harsh reality that Germany (home to 5 million of Birol’s fellow Turks) is reopening five lignite coal plants to keep its citizens warm this winter.

Doshi cheered the pledge by African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Amani Abou-Zeid, that African nations will use the COP 27 climate talks to advocate for a common energy position that sees fossil fuels as necessary to expanding economies and electricity access.

“We recognize,” said Abou-Zeid, “that some countries may have to use fossil fuels for now, but it’s not one solution fits all. It is not time to exclude, but it is the time to tailor solutions for a context. Our ambition is to have fast-growing economies, competitive and industrialized.”

Climate realists are well aware that African nations are flush with oil and gas and other valuable resources that only now those nations are able to harness for the benefit of their own citizens both by selling to energy-hungry world markets and by building long-delayed infrastructure at home.

Ayuk’s African Energy Chamber reports that, while Nigeria, Algeria, and Egypt today lead African gas production and LNG flows, there are also emerging markets in Equatorial Guinea, Senegal/Mauritania, and Mozambique – just for starters. The Chamber points to an estimated 125.3 billion barrels of crude oil resources and 620 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves available for energy security and economic expansion – with untold additional resources yet to be found.

The message, then, that Ayuk, Doshi, and countless African entrepreneurs and growth-oriented officials have for COP 27 is to get out of the way and let us “Drill, Baby, Drill.” The world, they argue, will benefit from a prosperous, energized African continent.

Isn’t it high time for the West to stop treating Africans as incapable of or (worse) disallowed from catching up to the rest of the world and offering new hope for longer lasting worldwide prosperity?

Accepting the promise of the 57-member African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the eagerness of African business and governmental leaders to come to Europe’s rescue by supplying energy to the developed world as they also use that energy to build out their own infrastructure is the real promise that could emerge from COP 27.


  • Duggan FlanakinDuggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
  • A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas.
  • A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, “Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout.”

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November 9, 2022