AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 3, 2015 (150803)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and
for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries,
including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining
ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing
its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the
beginning of the end for coal.

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President Obama’s just released Clean Power Plan, if implemented,
will accelerate the rate of closure of coal plants in the United
States. Even the world’s largest producer of coal, China, is
reducing its coal imports and has started to curb its
overwhelming dependence on coal for industrial growth.

Yet these efforts, and the sum of commitments on reducing carbon
emissions made by countries before the Paris climate change summit
this December, still fall short of that needed to protect the planet
as well as the health of those affected by air pollution.

Just released on web: “Must-watch” 1/2 hour video from GroundWork
(South Africa) and Friends of the Earth. “The Bliss of Ignorance” –
on damage to health and environment from South Africa’s addiction to
coal. View at

This AfricaFocus contains a roundup of AfricaFocus Bulletins over
the the last year on climate change and the environment, covering a
range of topics related to this issue, including the divestment
movement, progress in renewable energy, the still enormous gap
between international rhetoric and action in both financing and
action to stem climate justice, and the disproportionate effects of
failure to act on Africa in particular.

For more on “The End of Coal?,” see the Storify compilation of links
by AfricaFocus Bulletin:

Other recent articles of interest:

“Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution
Standards for Power Plants,” White House, August 3, 2015

Washington Post, August 2, 2015 – summary preview of Obama Clean
Power Plan, including limits on coal emissions

Munyaradzi Makoni, “One Tune, Different Hymns – Tackling Climate
Change in South Africa,” Inter Press Service, August 2, 2015

“Can technology free developing countries from light poverty?,” The
Guardian, July 30, 2015

Kofi Annan on CNN: “Africa does little to pollute our world, but
will pay the highest price,” Augusst 3, 2015



AfricaFocus Bulletin publication break. Publication will resume in
early September. Website, Facebook page (, and other social media will
continue to be updated occasionally during the break.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

AfricaFocus Bulletin: Climate Change and the Environment

For updated page visit

Talking Points

* Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel
industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies
primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly
industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but
extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New
Jersey as well as Lagos.

* When industries make decisions based on short-term profits,
encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they
systematically discount damages from “externalities.” Visible
results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger
Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West
Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and
more extreme weather will be even more devastating.

* Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made
in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action
are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But
efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance.
Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can
affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably,
clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale
fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

Bulletins on climate change and the environment

August 2014 – July 2015

July 6, 2015  Africa/Global: People’s Test on Climate

With less than six months before this year’s UN Climate Change
conference in Paris, it is clear that commitments by governments to
action on climate change will fall short of that necessary to keep
global warming under the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees
Celsius, despite recent new pledges by the United States, Brazil,
and China (;
But, beyond national governments, there are signs of growing
momentum for more rapid “transformational” action. Particularly
notable is the recognition that such action must simultaneously
address economic inequality and development as well as the natural

May 18, 2015  Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development?

Decarbonizing Development, a new report from the World Bank, lays
out a target of “zero carbon future” by the end of the century. The
target year goal is the most conservative of the options laid out
for negotiations in the climate summit in Paris in December. Such a
long transition can rightly be criticized by climate activists and
scientists as falling far short, as can the Bank’s own record of
continued support for fossil fuels implicitly faulted in this

May 5, 2015  Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground

“A key feature of 2014 was the continuing spread of renewable energy
to new markets. Investment in developing countries, at $131.3
billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever
to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion,
up just 3% on the year. Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, South
Africa and Turkey were all in the billion-dollar-plus club in 2014
in terms of investment in renewables.” – UNEP / Bloomberg New Energy

March 30, 2015  South Africa: Energy Futures Contested

The energy crisis in South Africa, with regular “load-shedding” due
to shortages of power from the monopoly utility Eskom, is now at the
top of the political agenda, featuring in President Jacob Zuma’s
State of the Nation Address in February and in ongoing disputes
about who is responsible and when the situation can be fixed. The
long-term strategy to exit the crisis and begin a transition to a
sustainable energy system is also marked by strong disagreements
between utility and government officials and their critics.

March 10, 2015  Africa/Global: Falling Short on Climate Finance

Africa, the continent with warming deviating most rapidly from
“normal” conditions, could see climate change adaptation costs rise
to US$50 billion per year by 2050, even assuming international
efforts keep global warming below 2 degrees C this century,
according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

March 3, 2015  East Africa: Water, Wind, and Lake Turkana

Lake Turkana, in the far northwest of Kenya and extending over the
border into Ethiopia, is the world’s largest desert lake, in a
region that is central to archaeological investigation into the
origin of humanity. It is now also central to two different projects
for expanding renewable energy due to come on-line in the next three
years, one based on hydropower and the other on wind. While both
will significantly expand the input to the East African power grid,
critics charge that expansion of hydropower on Ethiopia’s Omo River
also poses serious threats to the livelihood of local people both
around Lake Turkana and upstream along the Omo River.

February 11, 2015  Africa/Global: Archbishop Tutu on Fossil-Fuel

“The destruction of the earth’s environment is the human rights
challenge of our time. … The most devastating effects are visited
on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A
deep injustice. Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who
conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and
abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from
the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the
burning of fossil fuels.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

December 15, 2014  Africa/Global: Postponing Climate Decisions

“It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy
in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the
climate crisis. … In the wake of the climate disaster that was
Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of
police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their
hands in the air. … When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our
society comes to the surface in very clear ways.” – Deirdre Smith,, August 20, 2014

November 11, 2014  Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment Growing

The latest international scientific statement on the disastrous and
potentially irreversible damage from climate change is unambiguous,
as is the imperative for drastic action to curb greenhouse gas
emissions. But political obstacles to moving from rhetoric to action
are virtually unchanged, despite massive demonstrations coinciding
with the UN climate summit in late September. The dispersed fossil-
fuel divestment movement, however, although still too small to curb
the industry, is growing rapidly.

November 11, 2014  Africa/Global: Climate Change Summary Report

“The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their
bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a
very low cost) or risk ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts
for people and ecosystems.’ Scientists have ‘high confidence’ these
devastating impacts occur ‘even with adaptation’ — if we keep doing
little or nothing.” – Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress

September 22, 2014  Africa: Climate Action & Economic Growth

It is still conventional wisdom to pit action to curb climate change
against economic growth. But the evidence is rapidly accumulating
that this is a false dilemma, buttressed by vested interests in the
fossil fuel industry and a simplistic concept of economic growth.
According to a report just released by the Global Commission on the
Economy and Climate, falling prices for renewable energy and careful
analysis of both costs and benefits of low-carbon vs. high-carbon
investment strategies point to a clear conclusion: saving the planet
and saving the economy go hand in hand.

August 18, 2014  Africa: From Kerosene to Solar

The largest marketer of solar lamps in Africa, which recently passed
the one million mark in lamps sold, has set an ambitious target for
the industry. “Our mission is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from
Africa by the end of this decade,” proclaims Solar Aid. Although
achieving this goal would require the pico-solar market to emulate
mobile phone industry’s exponential growth path, it may not be as
utopian as it sounds. According to market research company Navigant
Research, “Off-grid solar lighting for base of the pyramid (BOP)
markets, the leading solar PV consumer product segment, is
transitioning from a humanitarian aspiration to big business.”


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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