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Market in fossils curbing renewable energy in Africa: UN official

Posted on Feb 07 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 7 : The global markets in fossil fuels are curbing the development of renewable energy in Africa, a top UN official said here Friday.

"The potential for renewable energy in Africa is so vast that you can cater to the needs of the whole continent and still export. So, we don't need to go to fossil fuels at all, but we all know that the markets have their way to play their preferences," Carlos Lopez, UN under-secretary and executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said in his address at the ongoing 14th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

"If we don't have the right policy measures (by African countries), it will not give renewable energy a chance to succeed," he added.

The paradox of a poverty-ridden Africa in possession of a variety of mineral resources, that is drawing foreign investors in droves, was pointed out by other speakers at the session, including the environment ministers from six African nations.

Giving the examples of Cape Verde, Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco as countries investing in renewable and clean energy to offset the trade in fossil fuels, the head of the Addis Ababa-based UN agency for Africa said: "Africa has the potential to be a new clean techno-economic paradigm. It can follow any green and clean energy pathway, leapfrogging other energy pathways and pursue a low carbon development pathway."

The European Commission estimates, for instance, that only 0.3 percent of the sunlight over the Saharan region in Africa could supply all of Europe's energy needs, he said.

Pointing to the other paradox of Africa - emitting least greenhouse gases, but suffering most of their impact, the Fisheries and Water Resources Minister of Gambia, Mass Axi Gai, said achieving food security in Sahel region of Africa had become remote because "rainfall has become to support the high growth of population in Africa."

"Incidence of too little or too much water have led to untold suffering for people and to loss of lives," the Gambian minister said.

The centrality of policy and governance for sustainable development was emphasised by the speakers, particularly in the context of Africa's young demography and its spectacular development in the past decade.

"Security, conflict and political instability is a major issue in Africa in the way of suitable policies for sustainable development. Things, however, are changing," Ephraim Kwamuntu, the minister of water and environment of Uganda told the gathering.

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