By Mustapha Manneh
The recent United States Willow oil project will escalate the already unbearable climate burden borne by vulnerable African communities.
With the world’s existing challenges regarding climate change, the US has yet again pulled the trigger. The massive approved oil project will devastate the climate – it is a long-term oil drilling venture in Alaska, which holds up to 600 million barrels of oil.
This project comes when scientists warn that global temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within the next decade as humans continue to burn fossil fuels; the project would produce up to 287 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 30 years. With the Arctic warming four times faster than the rest of the world, this has massive impacts on climate, populations, and ecosystems.
Since the grant of the project, activists across the globe have been campaigning for the US, claiming to be the champion of climate change to give a chance to renewable energy.
For Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, a South African-based campaigner for Don’t Gas Africa, African countries cannot bear the world’s challenges alone.
“We are in a climate emergency causing increasingly devastating climate impacts, particularly in Africa where adaptation capacity is still low. This calls for urgent action to build resilience to climate challenges through the abandonment of fossil fuels and a just energy transition to renewable energy. There is no place for the expansion of fossil gas in the energy transition debate. It would crowd out resources for renewable energy and dull any hopes for the transition to a just and equitable future.”
Africa, a continent that has contributed less to carbon emissions, is already feeling the brunt of global warming, with prolonged droughts, flooding, above-normal temperatures, and a famine that continues to devastate the Horn of Africa. Approving such a massive oil drilling project that will emit more CO2 into the atmosphere for decades puts millions of lives at risk in the global South.
“The approval of the Willow project by the United States will worsen the injustice that faces climate-vulnerable communities in Africa that have contributed the least to climate change. Instead of fuelling the climate crisis, wealthy nations such as the US should not only lead the transition to renewable energy but also support developing nations in achieving the same. The recently released IPCC report indicates that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert catastrophic climate impacts calls for rapid, deep greenhouse gas emission cuts. It is time to phase out fossil fuels globally and invest in a just transition to community-centered renewable energy that protects the rights of communities.” Charity Migwi, 350 sated.
350 NGO is an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.
The oil project has been approved, but many US citizens do not support this decision. In addition, many around the world have shown their opposition to this project. The opposition went viral on TikTok, leading to a massive petition and over a million letters sent to the White House, urging officials not to approve the project.
For campaigners like Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa, “The Willow project’s approval is a slap in the face of vulnerable countries. The continued pursuit of fossil fuels exposes us to the global calamity that risks human security. Unfortunately, the people in Africa and other vulnerable countries will suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis, accelerated by the millions of metric tonnes this project will add to the atmosphere. The US has time to turn this around. Now is the time to stop dancing to the destructive tune of Big Oil, but rather phase out all fossil fuels and invest in renewables to preserve our planet.”
The willow oil project directly conflicts with the Biden administration’s goal of cutting climate pollution by half in 2030.
The Biden government’s renewed hope for better climate policy and action has doubled since the approval of the willow oil project in Alaska.