Deemed future for Black Gold

Hailed as black gold in some quarters, fossil fuels are the Holy Grail most countries desire to have and gain control of. Their desire for control is fueled by their interest in the amount of money they stand to gain should they enter in the fossils fuels industry.

However, away from the conference rooms, economic power talks and stock markets, things are not as glossy as they seem. Communities are suffering from the effects of pollution from coal mines, oil spills kill sea life and taxpayers suffer the most when some individuals in the oil industry evade taxes through corrupt deals. Above all, there is an increase in the carbon footprints which stands to cause drastic climate change and as we know the effects of natural disasters are borne by the same community.

There can be a complete shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and it is happening. Several civil society groups around the world are joining arms to pressure corporations and oil companies to keep their hands off fossil fuels. So far this month, there have been 20 escalating actions involving over 30,000 people in 6 continents. Their targets are coal fields, sand mines, corporations and banks to pressurize them into keeping their hands of fossil fuels.

It is beyond Africa

To highlight a few, in the Niger Delta actions were held in iconic locations. The action at Ogoniland demanded an urgent clean-up of decades old oil spills and underscore how it is possible for citizens to resist the power of the oil corporations, and keep their oil in the ground where it belongs. Another action was on the Atlantic coast, where Exxon’s offshore wells frequently leak, and impact fisheries and harm coastline communities’ livelihoods.

In Constitutional Hill, South Africa a speak out session brought together drought-affected communities and farmers from around South Africa after which they took to the streets in a bread march. Elsewhere in Johannesburg, a peaceful action was organized by break Free South Africa to demand response from the controversial Gupta family and their attempts to stifle voices speaking up against them.

Newcastle Coal Port, the world’s largest coal port was shut down for a day following protests from more than 2,000 people. While some blocked the harbor entrance, others blocked the critical railway crossing dressed as angels. In Lakewood Colorado, USA hundreds of people disrupted an auction selling off thousands of acres of public land for oil and gas drilling.

Youth in Kenya leading the way

Kenya is keen to be part of these actions too. Speaking on the interference of oil corporations in climate talks, Mr. Willice Onyango an official of International Youth Council says “Thanks to interference from big polluters, the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change here in Kenya. We – the people, urge our government leaders to take action in Bonn, Germany to eliminate the primary obstacle to more ambitious and aggressive action by showing big polluters the door.”

This was ahead of a conference held by the same group on 19th May 2016 that has invited the Kenyan civil society to rally and demand that delegates to the UN climate treaty take decisive action to address the interference by fossil fuels industry on climate policy. Interesting discussions emerged from this conference. Communities at the centre-stage of climate change impacts and establishing population climate linkages at research level should be achieved.

It was an event on fossil fuel industry capture of climate policy and what we can do about it. Also present findings of the report entitled “Fueling the Fire” detailing the big corporations that bankrolled COP21 in Paris and call on a global investigation into the corporate capture of THE UNFCCC.

These events are part of a rapidly growing movement of people demanding that big polluters are removed from the climate policy making process. To date more than 570,000 people have joined the call, which was launched in May of 2015.

The train has already left the station and the effects of climate change policies are being felt by close to 50 major coal companies like Peabody Energy which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. The fluctuating oil prices are also stocking the fire of energy transition and it will be very expensive for any country to rely on petroleum products for energy.

Kenya’s submissions to the UN ahead of the COP21 Summit in Paris promise to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. They plan to achieve this target by the expansion of solar, wind and geothermal power, increase in forest cover by 10% and a reduction on the reliance of wood fuel. This shows that even developing countries can develop without fossil fuels.

So far there has been an increase in solar panel installations through the Rural Electrification Programme and the Lake Turkana Wind Project is in the works. There are prospects of geothermal sources outside the Olkaria plant that are also being explored among other renewable energy sources that can contribute to the national power grid.

Anyone seeking to enter into the fossil fuel industry for business should rethink their decision because the future seems dark. The global actions are just the beginning of what seeks to put an end to the destruction caused by exploitation of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, as individuals we must do our part by engaging in small acts like planting trees and shifting to more renewable sources of energy like solar panels in our homes. At the end of the day the buck stops with us and our ability to resist these products.

(c) Courtesy of Ordia Akelo – Climate Trackers Writing Fellow

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