We demand a just energy transition as COP28 starts – Ugandan feminist [OPINION]

I know that Africa is among the continents comprising the poorest countries with more than 600 million people missing access to cheap and flexible electricity. 

Energy poverty occurs when energy bills represent a high percentage of consumers’ income or when they must reduce their household’s energy consumption to a degree that negatively impacts their health and wellbeing.

I also know that Uganda has abundant energy resources especially hydrological and other renewable resources, yet there is widespread energy poverty throughout the country.

The country’s energy sector faces considerable challenges including acute power shortages, outages, increased demand, increased cost to purchase power and high maintenance costs among other issues.

It’s important to note that these challenges greatly affect women because they are at the frontline of cooking that requires energy.

They also require energy to breastfeed babies at night, ironing clothes and most women work from home so they need electricity to produce effective and efficient work.  

It should be remembered that most households in Uganda depend on charcoal or firewood for cooking. Unfortunately, this practice is not only inefficient but also causes air pollution which is bad for the environment and health.

According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution from solid fuels is responsible for about 3.2 million deaths globally each year, many of whom are children.

Moreover, deforestation is a significant environmental issue in Uganda as forests cover only about 12% of the country’s land area, according to national statistics.

On top of that, oil and gas were discovered beneath the Albertine Graben of Uganda in 2016 and have already negatively impacted on the environment though the government and oil sector players say they are in control to minimise the side effects.

Fossil fuels constitute about 79 per cent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, together with industrial activities, transport and built structures. An urgent and just phase out of fossil fuels is what the world needs. It is the pivot on which life on the planet balances.

According to the Paris Agreement, developed countries pledged to support developing countries to increase climate change adaptation and mitigation.

However, as a developing country, we have continued to suffer the consequences of climate change impacts like prolonged drought, temperature rise, high sea levels, floods, loss and damage. All these factors forced Global South countries to pay for what they didn’t pollute.

Ahead of COP28 as feminists, we call for an end to fossil fuel-induced energy apartheid in Africa which has left 600 million Africans without access to modern clean renewable energy. 

There is a need of scaling up cost-effective, clean, decentralised renewable energy as the fastest and best way to end energy exclusion and meet the needs of Africans.

There is also the need to end the capitalist economy and transition to a regenerative economy where people, animals and plants live together peacefully.

Communities benefiting from their minerals also not only Global North taking advantage of our resources in our own land.

We also   call for a transformative, people-led process involving rapid social, economic and political change to achieve energy democracy and deliver renewable energy assets into the hands of people and communities across the continent.

There is also a need to hold big polluters accountable so that they MUST PAY FOR WHAT THEY POLLUTE in global south countries.

While paying, we demand for grants not loans because they are not doing us a favor as developing countries. They are doing what they must do for the losses and damages caused.

More so, we demand for energy transition which means change from the way we produce and consume energy in our day to day lives.  

The government and oil companies in Uganda should invest more in green economic alternatives that will improve the social economic development of the country. We must, therefore, make commitments to end dependence on fossil fuels.

In a nutshell, to ensure Africa is not locked-in fossil gas production, we join with movements across Africa in demanding an end to fossil gas and other dirty, dangerous, obsolete and inappropriate energy systems.

The writer, Ms Ireen Twongirwe is the Executive Director at Women for Green Economy Movement, Uganda

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