Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Driving a just transition with low carbon technologies

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We stand at the cusp of a transformative era, recognizing the imperative to abandon old unsustainable practices in our efforts to curb pollution and address the escalating concerns of climate change. In response to this imperative, a wave of low carbon technologies has emerged, offering viable alternatives to conventional energy sources. Wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectricity have revolutionized electricity generation, harnessing renewable energy sources to power homes, businesses, and industries with minimal environmental impact. Similarly, the advent of electric vehicles heralds a new era of cleaner and more sustainable transportation, poised to revolutionize mobility while reducing emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. 

These transformative technologies are steadily gaining momentum, gradually displacing their polluting counterparts in the market. However, ongoing development within these sectors is essential to ensure that they can effectively meet the evolving needs and demands of consumers. Meanwhile, their counterparts continue to fill the remaining market, ensuring that jobs are not abruptly displaced and that there is sufficient supply to meet demand. This gradual transition away from polluting alternatives, marked by careful consideration of societal impacts and economic implications, embodies the concept of a just transition. 

Read also: Rising demand for transition metals in Africa could expand green job opportunities

There is a deliberate and concerted effort by governments and various stakeholders to accelerate the shift to clean technologies. This includes providing climate finance to support the development and deployment of these technologies and the implementation of policies designed to encourage their adoption. Incentives and rebates are being introduced to make clean technologies more attractive to consumers and businesses alike. Additionally, there is growing pressure on companies, especially those in polluting industries, to set targets for achieving net-zero emissions. This pushes them to invest in research and development, fostering innovation in low carbon technologies. At the same time, a voluntary model is being adopted to allow industries and communities time to adjust to these changes, ensuring that their needs are protected and that the transition is both equitable and sustainable. 

With this shift comes a new opportunity for the African continent. Low carbon technologies, particularly those related to renewable energy and electric vehicles, require batteries to store energy. These batteries depend on the exploitation of key resources such as cobalt, lithium, and other minerals that are abundant in Africa. This presents a significant opportunity for the continent to leverage its mineral wealth, fostering economic growth and playing a crucial role in the global transition towards sustainability.  

 The emergence of these new technologies also necessitates the development of new skills and expertise. As Africa embraces this transition, it opens doors for inclusive growth by providing opportunities for its workforce to acquire specialized knowledge in areas such as renewable energy, battery technology, and green manufacturing processes. 

Historically, Africa has been a late entrant into the world of manufacturing, hindered by factors such as inadequate infrastructure and a shortage of skilled labor. However, the current paradigm shift towards clean technologies levels the playing field, placing all nations on more equal footing. With the global transition to low carbon technologies, Africa has a unique opportunity to carve out a significant niche for itself.  

The continent is rich in raw materials essential for the creation of these technologies. Rather than continuing the status quo of exporting raw materials to other countries, Africa can develop its own capacity to manufacture and innovate in clean technologies. This shift could significantly boost its economic position and create numerous jobs for the many African youth who are currently unemployed.  

Africa is demonstrating significant potential in developing its capacity for low carbon technologies. Many startups emerged, leading the charge in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing. Currently, there are over 1,000 startups in the e-mobility space across the continent, signaling a strong desire to turn things around and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the clean technology revolution. There has also been widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies across African countries. Nations are increasingly harnessing solar, wind, and hydroelectric power to meet their energy needs. This growing embrace of renewable energy not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also holds the promise of creating numerous opportunities within these sectors. 

As renewable energy projects expand, they will stimulate job creation, foster technological innovation, and attract investment. This development is expected to lead to the establishment of local industries focused on the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy systems. 

Overall, the emergence of low carbon technologies represents not only a shift towards environmental sustainability but also a catalyst for economic growth and social inclusion in Africa. The African continent can position itself as a key player in the global clean technology revolution, driving progress towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for all 

 

Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungaihttp://www.edwardmungai.com/
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via mailto:edward@edwardmungai.com

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