A Moment of Honesty
Written by Siemens Energy Africa MD, Nadja Haakansson
“A hotter future is certain,” declared The New York Times last year following the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A very telling headline of a long-feared threat now known to be inevitable. Knowing things to be certain or inevitable has a huge psychological effect on humans, who – by nature – have a deep-seated desire for control. In retrospect, and with COP26 now behind us, the IPCC report had major repercussions beyond the drive for fast action and renewed commitments. It made us shift gears. We went from being (or thinking we were) in the driver’s seat working to steer our planet away from disaster, to ‘damage control’ or even self-preservation mode. And if that’s what it will take for us to fight climate change, then so be it. After all, fear can be the best motivator of all.
The stakes might be higher, and the end-goal might be slightly different, but the questions remain the same. Are we doing enough today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2°C?
Numbers don’t lie and although efforts have been made by nations and organizations, these measures have not sufficiently moved the needle. There is still much more work to be done. What the climate reports warned of was very much affirmed at COP26 a couple of months ago. The transformation we need to go through is complex and requires massive multi-lateral action, in full coordination between technology and innovation, states and governance, academia and individual change shapers. It's not just about introducing new technologies. We will also need to fundamentally review our approach to production, use and trade of energy, towards an environmentally and societally sustainable way. Sustainability goes beyond greenhouse gas emissions.
The African energy perspective cannot be compared to that of other regions. Africa, a continent with a diverse energy landscape where the north cannot be compared to the south nor the west to the east, is at an intersection of observation and empowerment. In a global context, the greenhouse gas emissions of most African countries continue to be marginal contributing comparatively minimally to climate change yet bearing the brunt of its consequences. For the continent, COP26 was more about vital funding for the 570 million in Africa still missing access to energy today. Energy poverty remains the most critical problem to be solved for Africa. It is imperative to ensure the establishment of country energy roadmaps that focus on adapting to the effects of climate change and mitigating impact in current and future energy systems. Dependency on fossil fuels for domestic and international trade must transition to modern and greener technologies that service societies and communities. Regional collaboration is a success factor, with power pool synergies as the key to swift development.
Reforestation, water-saving and agricultural initiatives have been launched across the continent, but according to the UN, many are progressing slowly. That's due, in part, to a lack of funding. Renewed pledges of financial assistance from developed nations and the introduction of a global emissions trading scheme can lead to facilitated mobilization of financial flows and will allow governments with limited resources to devote attention where it’s most needed.
However declarations of intent alone, whether from Europe, US, or African nations are not enough – what we need above all is faster action and successfully executed energy infrastructure projects that demonstrate applied energy solutions which can foster a momentum of capital investment in Africa. This will lead to stimulated industrialization, local skills creation, and further socio-economic growth and prosperity for African nations.
Sustainability, reliability, and affordability need to be the guiding targets for these energy roadmaps. Faster approval procedures, and credible governance with commercial and legal frameworks will enable and attract massive private capital for energy in Africa.
But governments share this responsibility with many other stakeholders. Companies are both places of innovation and role models for setting and actively pursuing climate targets. We must live up to this role. How? By entering global multi-partnerships, by modernizing conventional technologies as effective transitional solutions, and by developing even more innovative, green technologies.
At Siemens Energy we actively support the targets of the Paris Agreement, and we realize that change must start from within. That’s why we are on track to achieving our goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2023 as one lever of becoming climate neutral by 2030. We are committed to the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact and report annually on our progress.
Committing to the ESG targets is not enough though. Regular reporting on progress is a must to ensure empty promises are replaced with massive action. Implementation always trumps knowledge. Setting ambitious goals and transparently sharing progress ensures credibility and makes the journey and mission inclusive; creating the impetus for transformation.