Sahara Energy’s advocacy on carbon footprints and Africa’s narrative


By Foster Obi


Leading energy and infrastructure conglomerate, Sahara Group, last Monday in Lagos, launched the inaugural edition of Asharami Square, a pioneering initiative aimed at advancing the reportage of issues related to sustainability through impactful media advocacy. The event featured interactive panel discussions involving array of experts.

The inaugural session tagged, “Carbon Footprints and Africa’s Narrative,” is geared towards ensuring that Africa is not left behind in the global carbon sustainability campaign.

With the benefit of hindsight, Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change, despite contributing relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and increased extreme weather events affect agriculture, water resources, and human settlements, exacerbating poverty and displacement.

Indigenous knowledge and practices in Africa often promote harmony with nature. For example, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and sustainable forest management are rooted in traditional practices. Revitalizing and integrating these approaches can support climate resilience and sustainable development.

Africans are at the forefront of climate action, from innovative clean energy solutions to grassroots activism. By sharing their stories and experiences it can amplify African voices, showcase success stories, and inspire global cooperation.

Africa is advocating for climate justice, emphasizing the need for developed countries to take responsibility for their historical emissions and support African countries in their adaptation and mitigation efforts. African narratives highlight the need for equitable climate governance and financing.

By acknowledging and exploring these interconnected aspects, we can better understand the complex relationships between carbon footprint, climate change, and African experiences, fostering more inclusive and effective global responses to the climate crisis.

Sustainability like we know is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It’s a holistic approach that considers the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of development, aiming to balance them to ensure a healthy and thriving planet for all.

The three pillars of sustainability are: Environmental sustainability which involves protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and mitigating climate change.

Social sustainability: Promoting human well-being, social justice, and community development.

Economic sustainability: Ensuring prosperity and economic growth while minimizing harm to the environment and society.

Embracing sustainability means making conscious choices in our daily lives, policies, and business practices to reduce our ecological footprint and create a better future for all.

Speakers at the event did justice to the topic with insightful arguments that captures Africa’s present and potential location in the global sustainability campaign.

Overall, the African continent is at a critical juncture in its development trajectory. With a growing population, rapid urbanization, and increasing economic growth, Africa is facing unprecedented challenges in balancing its development needs with environmental sustainability. The African narrative, rooted in traditional practices and indigenous knowledge, offers valuable insights into sustainable living and environmental stewardship. The advocacy focuses on the African narrative regarding carbon footprint and sustainability, highlighting the need for a paradigm shift in Africa’s development approach.

African cultures have long lived in harmony with nature, relying on renewable energy sources, sustainable land use practices, and traditional knowledge systems. Indigenous practices such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and sustainable forest management have been passed down through generations, ensuring the long-term health and productivity of ecosystems. The African narrative emphasizes community, reciprocity, and long-term thinking, values that are essential for sustainable development.

The arrival of colonial powers and the subsequent introduction of fossil fuels and unsustainable practices disrupted the delicate balance between human activity and the environment. The exploitation of natural resources, deforestation, and land degradation became rampant, leading to soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and decreased water quality. The African narrative was marginalized, and traditional practices were replaced by unsustainable Western approaches.

So what is Carbon footprint?

From a sustainability perspective, carbon footprint measures the total amount of green house gases emmitted directly or indirectly by human activities.

It is typically expressed in terms of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (C02e) through Energy consumption, transportation, manufacturing, Agriculture, Waste management, among others.

Carbon footprint plays a significant role in climate change, which is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Understanding and managing our carbon footprint is crucial for several reasons:

Mitigating climate change: By reducing our carbon footprint, we can slow down global warming and its devastating impacts, such as sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity.

Improving air quality: Decreasing carbon emissions can also lead to better air quality, reducing negative impacts on public health and the environment.

Enhancing energy efficiency: Identifying areas to reduce carbon footprint encourages the adoption of renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and lowering energy costs.

Supporting sustainable development: Managing carbon footprint is essential for achieving sustainable development goals, as it helps balance economic growth with environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

By discussing carbon footprint, Sahara Energy is aware that we can raise awareness, share knowledge, and collaborate on strategies to reduce our impact on the environment and create a more sustainable future.

Africa’s carbon footprint is relatively small, accounting for merely 4% of global emissions. However, the continent’s rapid economic growth and urbanization threaten to increase emissions exponentially. Africa faces significant sustainability challenges, including deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss. Climate change exacerbates these issues, with rising temperatures, droughts, and extreme weather events affecting human settlements, agriculture, and ecosystems.

The African narrative offers a unique perspective on sustainability and carbon footprint reduction. By embracing its cultural heritage and traditional practices, Africa can lead the global transition to a low-carbon future. The continent must prioritize:

Renewable energy sources: Africa has an abundance of solar, wind, and hydro resources that can power its development.

Sustainable land use practices: Agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and sustainable forest management can ensure ecosystem health and productivity.

Climate resilience: Adaptation measures, such as early warning systems and climate-resilient infrastructure, can reduce vulnerability to climate-related disasters.

Traditional knowledge systems: Indigenous knowledge and practices can inform modern sustainability approaches.

The speakers agree that the African narrative offers a powerful framework for understanding the intricate relationship between carbon footprint and sustainable development.

According Dr Eugene Itua, CEO, Natural Eco Capital, Africa accounts for about 3.9 percent of the world CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry. Despite it’s large population, the continent’s contribution remains relatively low. In 2021, South Africa was the most polluting country in Africa emitting nearly 436 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Egypt ranked second with around 250 million metric tons, followed by Algeria, Nigeria and Libya.

He noted that understanding carbon footprints is critical for addressing climate change.

Also by quantifying emissions, we can identify areas for improvement, promote sustainable practices and work towards reducing our impact on the environment.

He advocated for Carbon credits as a way to encourage individuals and companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). O

Tradable carbon credits are certificates or permits that represent the right to emit a specific amount of greenhouse gases, usually carbon dioxide. They are used to incentivize companies and countries to reduce their emissions, as part of efforts to combat climate change.

Companies or countries that reduce their emissions below a certain level are awarded carbon credits.

These credits can be traded (bought and sold) with other companies or countries that need to offset their own emissions.

The revenue generated from selling carbon credits can be used to fund further emission-reducing projects.

The goal is to create a financial incentive for reducing emissions, promoting sustainable practices and contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change.

Here are some examples of efforts made by African countries and companies to advance the campaign against climate change.

The African Carbon Markets Initiative was launched at the 2022 United Nations Climate Conference. The initiative aims to increase climate financing for Africa and make the continent a larger player in the voluntary carbon market.

Nigeria has been a Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) partner since 2012. The country has proposed several policies to reduce emissions, including a plan to reduce methane emissions from its oil and gas sector by 2030.

The Nigerian government has also launched a clean cooking program in collaboration with the CCAC to reduce emissions from cooking.

The country has also launched a program to phase out kerosene lighting and replace it with clean modern lighting.

Nigeria has also developed a National Cooling Plan with the support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Africa’s role in the global carbon narrative.

Africa is warming faster than any other continent, despite being responsible for only a small fraction of carbon emissions.

The continent’s low fossil fuel emissions and high productivity compensate for respiration.

Land conversion, such as deforestation, is Africa’s primary source of carbon release, with a significant portion of it being caused by forest burning.

Africa’s savannas are a major source of interannual variability in global atmospheric CO2.

The continent’s carbon emissions and interannual variability are expected to increase substantially in the 21st century due to climate change and land use change, as well as growing populations and industrialization.

Despite Africa’s significant role in the global carbon cycle, the continent’s contribution to global carbon fluxes remains poorly understood due to a lack of observation networks and data.

Here are some successful carbon trading projects in Africa

Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company (RVCMC): This company is creating a carbon market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In June 2023, RVCMC held an auction in Nairobi, selling over 2.2 million tonnes of carbon credits.

The Nature Conservancy: This organization has been leading the creation of the science and best practices needed for carbon projects. The Africa Forest Carbon Catalyst is a $10 million grant raised to provide technical and financial support to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) programmes and partners to develop high quality carbon projects.

Professor Sunday Adebisi of the University of Lagos,one of the speakers threw searchlight on the role of Carbon entrepreneurs in the narrative. Carbon entrepreneurship involves developing and implementing innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable development, and generate carbon credits. Carbon entrepreneurs:

Identify opportunities to reduce emissions or sequester carbon.

Develop projects or technologies to achieve these reductions (e.g., renewable energy, reforestation, sustainable land use).

Design and implement carbon offsetting or reduction projects.

Monitor and verify emission reductions or carbon sequestration.

Sell carbon credits or offsets on compliance or voluntary markets.

Work with companies, governments, or organizations to develop carbon reduction strategies.

Collaborate with stakeholders to promote sustainable development and climate resilience.

Stay up-to-date with carbon market trends, policies, and technologies.

Carbon entrepreneurs drive innovation in climate change mitigation and sustainable development, often working in sectors like:

Renewable energy, Sustainable land use, Forest conservation, Energy efficiency, Carbon capture and storage, Sustainable agriculture, Waste reduction and management

By developing and implementing carbon reduction projects, carbon entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the global effort to combat climate change.

Here are some Nigerian carbon entrepreneurs and their impact on the industry.

Nigerian government and private sector: The Nigerian government launched the African Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) alongside other African leaders and CEOs to encourage private investment in Africa’s energy development and increase Africa’s involvement in carbon credit markets.

Tope Adebayo: Tope Adebayo is a Nigerian lawyer who has written extensively on Nigeria’s carbon market and the need for the country to establish robust legal frameworks to effectively steer the carbon market.

The Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre (NCIC) was established in 2018 with support from the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria to tackle climate change challenges by fostering the growth of green businesses. The NCIC focuses on sectors such as clean energy, agriculture, and the circular economy ¹. Here are some of the impacts of the NCIC.

In 2021, the NCIC Embryo Incubation Programme (EIP) supported 20 clean energy start-ups

The programme resulted in the creation of innovative solutions in solar power, e-mobility, energy efficiency, and biogas production

The NCIC has supported ventures that have demonstrated the potential to succeed and scale innovations that will extend the delivery of electrification to unserved communities

The NCIC has improved livelihoods and local economies, and has supported the Nigerian government’s objectives in the energy and climate sectors

The Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre is indeed a shining example of innovative solutions tackling climate change challenges. Their impact on supporting clean energy start-ups and promoting sustainable development is truly commendable.

Need for transition to cleaner energy:

The speakers also advocated the need for transition to cleaner energy in Africa.

According to World Bank data, about 101 million people in Nigeria do not have access to grid electricity. In rural areas, only 34% of Nigerians have access to the grid. Most people rely on kerosene lamps, candles and torches for lighting.

It is believed that if nothing is done to improve the Nigerian market for clean household lighting solutions, as many as ten million people could still be using kerosene in 2030 and suffering from the fuel’s negative effects.

A resourced, strategic approach to the full market transformation to zero-emission solar LED lighting, following a well proven integrated policy approach as applied by United for Efficiency in some 40 countries worldwide, is applicable to Nigeria. This approach takes time and resources to appropriately design, plan and deliver but would have a high positive impact at a relatively low cost.

A five-year programme to completely phase out kerosene lighting in Nigeria recommended for the benefit of the more than 30 million people that currently use this fuel – this is a significant large scale-opportunity with wide economic, social and environmental benefits, including for reducing short-lived climate pollutants at the household level.

Efforts in this direction aims to increase access to clean lighting solutions in Nigeria by overcoming identified barriers to the large scale uptake of alternative lighting technologies, supporting policy development, supporting a study on kerosene subsidies and deploying an awareness raising campaign. This activity responds directly to recommendations made by the Coalition’s Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in their briefing note on black carbon that identifies emissions from kerosene lamps as a global priority for mitigation.

Sahara Energy believes that globally, sustainability reporting in the media has seen significant growth and development, reflecting a broader trend towards transparency and accountability in corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. According to the organization, corporate organisations now disclose their policies and targets related to emissions reduction, resource conservation, biodiversity, and other issues.

Bethel Obioma, Head, Corporate Communications at Sahara Group, said it was imperative to support media organisations and journalists covering these issues through capacity building programs. “This would help journalists achieve a clearer understanding of the issues and empower the media to play the critical role of monitoring, agenda-setting, transparent reporting, awareness creation and galvanising collective action from the public on how best to approach the subject-matter of sustainability.”

Obioma said the thought leadership platform will provide an “opportunity to encourage deeper knowledge of the media, especially in Africa, on issues such as energy transition, transition fuels, environmental stewardship, governance, carbon storage, capture, and usage, among others.”

Ejiro Gray, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group said Africa’s media institutions would benefit immensely from similar platforms. “As sustainability issues gain prominence, media coverage helps to educate stakeholders, which can in turn influence corporate behaviour and policymaking,” she noted.

“Asharami Square is a targeted platform to shape these conversations on key industry issues, especially for the benefit of the media which serves as the last-mile-component in the value chain of keeping the public abreast of unfolding developments”, she added.

Speakers at the maiden edition of Asharami Square include: Bethel Obioma; Ejiro Gray; Foluso Sobanjo, Head, Downstream Africa, Sahara Group; Wole Ajeigbe, Group Projects Manager, Asharami Energy (A Sahara Group Upstream Company); Mokhtar Bounour, CEO Egbin Power Plc; Ogochukwu Onyelucheya, Chief Commercial Officer, Ikeja Electric; Prof. Sunday Adebisi, Professor of Entrepreneurship Hub & Strategic Management, University of Lagos; ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, Regional Director, West Africa, Ford Foundation; Eugene O. Itua, CEO Natural Eco Capital; and Dr. Marcel Mbamalu, CEO Newstide Publications Limited

Asharami Square is an initiative by Sahara Group to advance the reportage of sustainability issues through impactful media advocacy ¹ The initiative aims to:

Encourage deeper knowledge of the media on sustainability issues

Support media organisations and journalists covering sustainability issues through capacity building programs

Empower the media to play a critical role in monitoring, agenda-setting, transparent reporting, awareness creation, and galvanizing collective action from the public on sustainability issues

Provide a platform for thought leadership on issues such as energy transition, transition fuels, environmental stewardship, governance, carbon storage, capture, and usage

Enhance media reportage on sustainability issues and promote sustainability through media advocacy

Asharami Square is indeed a laudable initiative by Sahara Group to promote sustainability and empower the media to drive positive change. By supporting the development of impactful reporting on sustainability issues, they are contributing to a more informed and environmentally conscious society.

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