Desmond Davies- London Bureau
London, Oct. 10, GNA – Energy experts,
including those from Africa and the UN agencies, will meet at a global forum in
London this month to find out how coal can be a “responsible partner for
development”, especially in line with the United Nations Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs).
The forum will concentrate on SDG 7, which
calls for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for
all; and SDG 8, which aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic
growth, employment and decent opportunities for work.
It will also focus on SDG 13, which deals with
action to combat climate change and its impact, especially the role of the
The latest UN Secretary General’s update on
the progress of the SDGs noted about SDG 7: “Progress in every area of sustainable
energy falls short of what is needed to achieve energy access for all and to
meet targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“Meaningful improvements will require higher
levels of financing and bolder policy commitments, together with the
willingness of countries to embrace new technologies on a much wider scale.”
The energy debate was recently rekindled when
the US Treasury urged multilateral development banks to help developing
countries access coal cleanly and efficiently to provide electricity to aid
In Africa, more than 600 million people lack
electricity, and those that are sitting on the continent’s 50 billion tons of
coal reserves are hoping that the Treasury’s move will work in their
Experts argue that coal plays a critical role
in bringing affordable, reliable electricity to millions of people in
developing and emerging economies.
World Bank figures show that 600 million
people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 30 years, but with almost
all in China while in the rest of the world, levels of poverty have barely
“The link between access to affordable power
from coal, economic growth and prosperity is clear,” notes the World Coal
Association (WCA), which is hosting the global forum.
This is closely related to SDG 8, which calls
for increased labour productivity, reduced unemployment rate, especially for
young people, and improved access to financial services and benefits that are
essential components of sustained and inclusive economic growth.
The UN Secretary General’s update on SDG 8
noted that overall average annual GDP growth in the least developed countries
fell from 7.1 per cent between 2005 and 2009 to 4.9 per cent between 2010 and
2015, well below the SDGs target of seven per cent.
The coal issue is expected to be discussed at
the week-long World Bank/International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings that began
on Sunday in Washington DC.
African countries are not happy about the way
their economies have been run under the supervision of the Bretton Woods
For instance, Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken
Ofori-Atta, wants African countries to have more say in the way that the World
Bank and IMF intervene in their economies.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Ghana’s 60
years of membership of the World Bank, he noted that the World Bank got away
with the mistakes it made in the 1980s and 1990s in Ghana because successive
governments were not in a position to challenge the “orthodoxy”
that underpinned economic modules imposed on
“Like the SAP [Structural Adjustment
Programme] and the ERP [Economic Recovery Programme],” he said.
“It was made to appear like the gospel.
“There are always no other alternatives.
“There must be an honest discussion after 60
years,” Mr. Ofori-Atta said, adding that he would like to see developing
countries challenge World Bank economic prescriptions and to make
recommendations on policies imposed on them.
These countries are waiting to see whether the
World Bank will follow up on the US Treasury’s recommendation on coal use –
something that the African Development Bank already supports.
The coal issue, with its climate change
implications, is focusing the minds of African countries that have substantial
coal reserves such as Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.
These are countries that are facing
significant energy problems.
Experts point out that coal has an important
role to play in supplying base-load electricity. Coal-fired electricity can be
fed into national grids and will bring energy access to millions, supporting
economic growth in the developing world, they explain.
According to the International Energy Agency’s
World Energy Outlook 2011, “coal alone accounts for more than 50 per cent
of the total on-grid additions” required to achieve the IEA’s Energy for
“This clearly demonstrates coal’s fundamental
role in supporting modern base-load electricity,” noted the WCA.
“Many countries with electricity challenges
are also able to access coal resources in an affordable and secure way to fuel
the growth in their electricity supply.”
Apart from coal resources meeting the huge
demand for electricity in Africa, surplus coal could be exported to raise
It has become a much sought-after resource by
China and India, which are pushing ahead with coal-fuelled projects.
Figures show that in China almost 99 per cent
of the population is connected to the power grid.
Experts believe that African countries could
fuel this demand by selling their excess coal to the two Asian countries.
“Both countries will continue to rely on coal
imports despite having their own deposits,” Rory Kutisker-Jacobson, an equity
analyst, told NewsBase Global Energy Research at the 2017 Africa Mining meeting
in Indaba in Cape Town early this year.
“Coal producers in Africa can still make a lot
This is coming at a time when pressure is
mounting on African national oil companies to balance their books, as prices
continue to tumble.
An analysis released last week by Price Water
Coopers (PwC), warned: “African countries that have for decades depended on
their national oil company as a key source of revenue will need to rethink
business models and strategies to avoid being captive to a single energy source
and to allow them to rebalance budgets.”
The WCA said of the London forum: “Building on
contributions from expert speakers and interactive discussions, the forum will
provide a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue to confront the complex
reality of meeting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a focus on
the interface with coal.”