What Do Fossil Fuel Companies Really Know about Climate Change?
by Rodgers Phiri
Renewable energy is now being seen by many people around the world as a cost-effective development solution for Zambia.
Renewable Energy Is More Affordable
A report released last week by international development organization, Oxfam, argued that renewable energy is, in fact, a more affordable energy source than coal for poor people in developing countries around the world.
For instance, to start accessing power from Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), a customer needs about $1875 for both installation of electric wires and paying the company to start supplying a given house hold with power. It is a rare case that a poor citizen in Zambia can afford to pay this amount in order to start accessing power.
The report argued that as a result of the changing energy landscape around the world, the decreasing price of renewable energies, and the often remote location of the majority of people who don’t have access to electricity, renewable energy may actually offer a more reliable and effective energy source.
This is real in Zambia with the current electricity load shading making it more expensive, because those who have enough resources use solar energy as well as generators, unlike those who cannot afford to acquire equipment that use renewable energy. Instead of relying on buying electricity units, the poor can actually use solar energy, which is abundant in Zambia and at no cost.
Few Have Access to Energy Grid
According to report author, Dr Simon Bradshaw, "Four out of five people without electricity live in rural areas that are often not connected to a centralized energy grid, so local, renewable energy solutions offer a much more affordable, practical, and healthy solution than coal." As already stated above, renewable energy is a cheaper way of surviving for the poor, because they reduce their spending for home consumption.
For instance, Emerging Cooking Solutions (ECS) in Zambia deals in cooking utensils that use renewable energy and at a very cost effective rate. The pallets, which are made from sawdust, are usually sold together with the brazier to the poor families. This is much more affordable for the poor people who cannot afford to buy electricity or acquire expensive machinery to survive with the current electricity load shading.
"But as well as failing to improve energy access for the world’s poorest people, burning coal contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year due to air pollution and is the single biggest contributor to climate change."
As stated in my first article for Call4climate Change, most communities suffer various environmental and social challenges including repeated pollution or contamination of their domestic water and land resources; unclean air, causing a variety of lasting respiratory complications; and damaged or run down social and economic infrastructure, such as recreation facilities and roads, due to the heavy traffic of trucks carrying copper.
The major communities suffering the effects of pollution are Mufulira, Kankoyo and Chilanga.
This supports statements made this year by the World Bank, IMF and former UN Security Chief, Kofi Annan, who have all argued that renewable energy and not fossil fuels is the key to improving energy access and reducing inequality, especially in developing countries.
Earlier this year, it was revealed by the Union of Concerned Scientists that some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have been purposely spreading misinformation about climate change. Some of the fossil fuel companies included in the report are Kobil, Petroda, BP, Chevron, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Phillips, and Shell.
In fact, environmental group, Greenpeace, estimates that Exxon have spent about 30 million dollars on researchers and activist groups simply to promote disinformation about global warming since 1981, according to a tally kept by the campaign group, Greenpeace.
Growth of Renewable Energy
However, in spite of the best efforts of fossil fuel companies to spread climate denial and prevent the spread of renewable energies, they have begun to grow at an incredible speed around the world.
This is evident in Zambia, with the establishment of many filling stations in the country. They say climate change is not real, but these words fight them back, especially during a fuel shortage, which is not a rare scenario in the country.
Some people are encouraged to use bicycles as a mode of transportation and a climate change adapting measure. For instance, in the Eastern province of Zambia, people have resorted to the use of bicycles for transportation, because they will always survive the effects of climate change.
Economic and Emissions Growth Decoupled
In fact, according to Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, “Last year, for the first time in 40 years, economic and emissions growth have decoupled.”
The Renewable Energy Network was recently responsible for producing a global study of renewable energy growth over the last 10 years. What they found was is quite surprising, even to its authors. "If you look back 10 years ago, Renewable energies were providing 3 per cent of global energy, and now, they provide something close to 22 per cent, so that has really sky-rocketed," noted Christine.
In the last 30 years, the number of climate change activists, environmental organizations, and firms offering climate change solutions in Zambia has increased. The efforts of these environmental activists are seen by the increase in the number of people using renewable energy. For instance, SNV and other organizations in Zambia are encouraging the use of bio-gas obtained from toilet matter. This biogas can be used for all home consumption. It is something very rare, but gaining popularity, in terms of usage in Zambia.
Learning from Other Countries
Zambia is learning from countries like Uruguay, which aims to generate 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and Costa Rica, which has maintained 100% renewable energy generation for the first 100 days of this year.
Public institutions, such as city councils in the country, have resorted to renewable energy as a result of increased electricity charges. The Lusaka city council has started using solar energy to power the street lights. This is even reducing the council’s expenditure, because they will be using free solar energy, which is also renewable.
These countries are not alone and are fast becoming the norm, rather than the "alternative." Even small developing countries, such as Burundi, Jordan and Kenya, are leading the world by investing in renewable energies as a percentage of GDP.
This is important for Zambia and other countries embracing renewable energy, because these renewable energies are releasing less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby contributing less to change in climatic conditions. Fossil fuel companies don’t really know about climate change, because their main interest is making money and more profit.
Other fossil fuel companies know about it, but they turn a blind eye and are being attracted by the increase in the number of fossil fuel motor vehicles. It is encouraging to know that the Eastern province of Zambia has prioritized the use of bicycles. This is helping to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
The life span of non-renewable resources is being extended by the continued use of renewable energy. For instance, the use of solar energy extends other non-renewable resources, such as fuel and coal.