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close this bookThe Global Greenhouse Regime. Who Pays? (UNU, 1993, 382 p.)
close this folderPart III National greenhouse gas reduction cost curves
close this folder9 Carbon abatement potential in West Africa
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentLong-term energy and carbon emissions scenarios
View the documentOptions for rational energy use and carbon conservation
View the documentEconomic opportunities for implementation
View the documentPolicy issues for the region
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences


Africa's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is relatively small. Its share will grow, however, as poverty is eradicated by social and economic development. Also, all countries must cooperate and participate in carbon conservation strategies if the world is to avoid the possible adverse effects of climate change. The extent and magnitude of these effects on natural ecosystems are uncertain. But ecologically sensitive zones in Africa are among the world's most vulnerable areas. The population of Africa is relatively vulnerable to damages wrought by climate change due to its high dependence on natural systems for daily survival. Hence, African countries should participate actively in identifying potential for greenhouse gas abatement.

The climate convention negotiated at Rio in 1992 presents new financial opportunities to African countries. Their access to these funds will be enhanced if they understand fully greenhouse phenomena and related issues. Most African countries rely heavily on advice and funding from external donors in formulating and implementing their development strategies. These external agencies increasingly regard environmental concerns as important in their dealings with African aid recipients. To be successful, therefore, African development strategies must be more environmentally sensitive as well as economically sound.

In 1990, carbon dioxide accounted for 63 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. About three quarters of this total was emitted by developed countries. However, as developing countries move up the development ladder and demand high quality energy, so too their share of the global total will grow. Furthermore, present land use practices such as intensive logging contribute to the destruction of the tropical rain forest, thereby reducing national carbon sinks. The search for global abatement strategies should involve all countries. The final approach, however, must also recognize their different responsibilities and capabilities in accordance with their social and economic circumstances.

The importance of the energy sector in abating carbon emissions is self-evident. It is the biggest single source of global carbon emissions. Although Africa contributes only about 3 per cent of total global carbon emissions (and Africans emit less than a quarter of the world average on a per capita basis) its energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions will grow substantially. Thus, I focus on carbon abatement strategies within the energy sector of Africa, using West Africa as a case study.

The major challenge facing the region's energy sector is to substantially increase energy services delivered to consumers. In 1990, the annual per capita energy consumption in the region (excluding biomass energy) was less than 4 GJ. It ranged from less than l GJ per capita in Burkina Faso to over 7 GJ per capita in Ivory Coast. This figure is extremely low compared with the rest of the world. Indeed, due to declining economic performance and ecological degradation, energy usage stagnated in the 1980s (see Figure 9.1). West Africa is not short of exploitable energy resources per se, but developing these resources will require innovative approaches. One such approach is to pursue carbon abatement strategies that also increase the availability of competitive, high quality energy services so vital to Africa's development.

Figure 9.1 Modern fuel use, per capita comparison of developing regions

In this chapter, therefore, I seek to identify carbon abatement strategies which also increase energy services for the West African region. While limited to West Africa, these results are relevant to the rest of the continent. I divide the chapter into four parts. In the first, I look at long term scenarios for energy consumption and carbon emissions. In the second, I discuss the technical options for reducing energy related carbon. In the third, I examine economic opportunities to implement some of these options. In the last section, I analyse assess policy issues which will facilitate the implementation of these technological and economic options.