Even though American leadership appears to be losing its motivation to tackle climate change, there’s still a good chance the Earth can be saved.
Climate activism has risen rapidly since Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement and global cooperation and market forces are causing renewable energy to become more popular than ever.
It’s no secret that the developing world are still relying on coal. While India has seen huge investments in wind and solar power, they are still projected to be heavy polluters for some time to come.
However, the African continent is taking a different approach. According to the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), it’s likely that Africa will skip the use of coal all together and focus on using clean energy electricity sources:
“When it comes to Africa, I think we will see something for the first time: Namely, Africa will bring electricity to people by mainly using renewable energy and natural gas.”
Africa consists of around 700 million people without any source of electricity. Check out this tweet from Afrobarometer which shows how many Africans are connected to an electric grid:
— Afrobarometer (@afrobarometer) March 14, 2016
This means that the governments in Africa can choose any energy source they like. While coal is generally cheaper, the effectiveness and ease of availability of renewable energy is positioning it to be more enticing for most African countries.
It’s not just Birol who is predicting this. A study from 2016 analyzed energy trends in Africa and found that in 21 countries, renewable energy could fulfill the nations’ electricity needs by 2030.
However, it’s important to realize that natural gas will still be a major feature in Africa’s short-term future – a fact that is unavoidable due to its cost and availability. Though, natural gas does have a lower carbon footprint than oil or coal.
Of course, there are obstacles in the way. For renewable energy to become prominent, there’s going to have to be a lot of cooperation between African countries – something that has proved difficult in the past.
Also, the electric grids that exist right now desperately need an upgrade.
However, if this prediction takes hold and Africa leapfrog over coal and choose renewable energy instead, this would mean an extra billion people use clean energy rather than coal.