Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Botswana government should embrace clean energy transitions

As the world irreversibly moves towards combating climate change,  a top priority for many governments has become how to optimally transition to low carbon energy sources and also how to find a more optimal energy mix that is friendlier to the environment.

This is a big issue that every country in the world is at the moment seized with.

This week a United Nations summit, COP26, will kickstart in Glasgow.

Governments will make known what their obligations are towards cutting on emissions, spending on new and cleaner energy and most importantly making investments that will help arrest global warming that is now categorised as the immediate challenge facing the world.

Botswana too has submitted its legally binding country target on reducing carbon emissions.

Those have to be accompanied by clearly discernible movements on the ground on investments towards green energy.

Botswana Government cannot forever postpone the movement towards clean energy.

Save for a few years of aberration, Botswana has always been a believer in multi-lateralism.

That is exactly what the energy transition calls for.

We need political leadership that understands what is at stake.

The country has to move with greater speed towards weaning itself from energy that is derived from pollutants such as coal.

Time is not so long away when Botswana’s energy priorities  and also the country’s policies on climate change will come under intense scrutiny.

There will come a time when pressure on Botswana government to reduce emission will be too much to bear.

When that time comes the country will be expected to cut its emissions at a much faster pace than were it to start now.

Thankfully at the moment there are multiple countries and organisations still willing to offer a helping hand to developing countries like Botswana.

Botswana should apply for grants and subsidies from the developed world.

Where possible the country should encourage local lenders to incorporate green technologies into their funding.

There is no guarantee that such help will always be available.

It is not a secret that Botswana continues to use coal to power both Morupule “A”  and “B” for the country’s energy needs.

Botswana’s Morupule “B” built by loans from multi-lateral sources is still to be used.

At the moment repairs are ongoing.

While country is expected to service the loans, it is not a secret that already the world is turning its back on coal-fueled power stations.

That presents a serious problem for Botswana Government.

As a country we are starting from a top end. And already the United Nations has indicated that coal use has to be reduced rapidly.

Effectively 100 percent of Botswana’s electricity comes from coal.

Other than that, Botswana imports much of its power from South Africa, also generated using coal.

Coal is identified as one of the world’s leading pollutants.

Botswana government should by now be ahead in engaging the more developing countries on accessing financial and technical assistance on how best to transition to green energy.

There is a need for investment in green technologies.

But the transition from hydrocarbons to renewables is not going to be easy.

The cost will be high, especially if as a country we delay what is inevitable.

It is thus important for Botswana government not to lag too far behind.

More crucially Botswana government should start preparing Batswana into accepting that such a transition towards renewables is in inevitable.

There is also obviously a political dimension to it.

Some might think that economically, Botswana is too small to make a big impact on the grand scale of things.

Given that, politicians will be tempted to resist to make a transition.

But that will however make Botswana increasingly vulnerable down the line.

Going forward the country will find that its loan and capital demands from global lenders like IMF and World Bank are increasingly or even intricately tied to the country’s clear commitments to reduction of emissions.

For Botswana there will no doubt be much bigger hurdles to cross into the transition.

These include sizeable investments in new energy infrastructure.

It also includes an ambitious plan to grow the country’s energy mix with a clear slant towards renewables.

In the meantime people need to be encouraged and indeed empowered to get used to getting their supplies off the grid.

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