Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

Opinion

The Green 'gaslighting' of Africa

  • If Europe is truly interested in realising a better outcome for the environment globally, then it must be willing to work with the Global South collaboratively, not confrontationally (Photo: Arsenie Coseac)

The European Union and Europe more generally have done a great deal of good work in seeking to protect their own environments.

But their track record nevertheless leaves much to be desired, for which reason the gaslighting of other nations has to come to an end.

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If Europe is truly interested in realising a better outcome for the environment globally, then it must be willing to work with the Global South collaboratively, not confrontationally.

This concern was only heightened by Norway's announcement of its decision to fund a comprehensive satellite map of vulnerable forests - a tool by which to combat deforestation.

Since much of this deforestation takes place in the Global South, it is fair to ask why Norway is spending resources to protect the environment in other countries while doing little to combat its own contribution to a deteriorating environment, from oil and gas to consumer demand.

Norway is, after all, one of the world's leading gas-exporters, meaning that Norway's great export drives climate change across the world.

Perhaps Norway could fund a map connecting their oil and gas industry to proportionate carbon emissions, by which interested parties could track environmental harm.

I am being facetious merely to draw attention to an ongoing, frustrating, and damaging pattern of behaviour.

For a very long time now, many Europeans have claimed to be signally concerned with the environment but restricted that concern to nations whose contributions to climate change are largely driven by Western industry and Western consumer demand.

This double standard means that Europe can loudly proclaim its desire for a 'Green Deal' without constructing such a deal in such a way as to include local, Globally Southern inputs.

This has led to some unfortunate engagements with Africa and Africans.

While, of course, Brexit talks extend interminably, Britain and the European Union continue to exploit Africa for resources, many of which drive climate change, while hectoring and lecturing Africans about the resultant damage to the environment.

Despite its much ballyhooed 'Green Deal,' for example, the EU plans a $100bn investment in fossil fuels, including my continent. What will the environmental impact of this investment be?

And why doesn't Europe consider a similarly massive investment in Africa, and the wider Global South, such that it can transition to cleaner forms of energy and find alternative economic supports—rather than have to rely on Western demand for raw materials and resources that drive major indices of climate change, including, for example, the deforestation Norway is so worried about.

Norway and UK

A similar discrepancy holds with the UK.

The British government aims to realise net zero emissions by 2050; nevertheless, prime minister Johnson's proposed drastic emission cuts are neither sufficient nor urgent enough to realise this target.

Indeed, Johnson's climate plan, touted as a 'Green Industrial Revolution,' offers a pittance: £12bn [€13.1bn] of public investment -contrasted with the estimated £400bn PwC calculates would be required to realise net zero emissions.

Norway, of course, is not exempt from this calculus.

Norway is, as aforementioned, one of Europe's top gas exporters, with no documented intention to reduce its production of fossil fuels.

A signal example of the European double standard I refer to comes with Norway's simultaneous announcement of divesting its sovereign wealth fund from oil and gas exploration while opening its largest oil field ever. That is not so surprising from the world's third-largest gas exporter.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. Europe is not wrong to draw attention to environmental realities in less developed countries, but if Europe does so in order to distract from its own complicity in these environmental realities, then fair-mindedness demands we draw attention to this behaviour.

The world cannot expect the Global South to choose between poverty and sustainability.

The right thing to do, therefore, is to pursue a 'Global Green Deal,' one that transcends the parochial interests of great powers and seeks to truly win in the fight against climate change.

In such a 'Global Green Deal,' developing nations would be made equal partners in the pursuit of a clean energy revolution. That would be the right thing to do and, in the present circumstances, the best thing to do. The West and the Global South, working as partners.

Let us not only hope we see this outcome but work to bring it about.

Author bio

Muhammad Magassay is a Gambian MP, and parliamentary representative of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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