This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Carlos Lopes, a professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town, High Representative of the African Union for partnerships with Europe, and a member of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
Project Syndicate: In February, you praised African governments for their efforts to shift away from coal, but argued that more must be done. The continent’s governments, you wrote, “should strengthen strategies and policies aimed at encouraging the transition to a new climate economy and increasing investment in clean energy.” Where should policymakers start?
Carlos Lopes: Shifting away from coal (and fossil fuels in general) is a way of safeguarding the future, not only from an environmental perspective, but also from an economic one. Today’s historically low oil prices – prices were even negative for May futures – should be a wake-up call for Africa’s fossil-fuel producers, such as Algeria, Angola, and Nigeria.
Further investment will only make these countries more dependent on oil – and thus more vulnerable to oil-price volatility. Add to that the fact that 42% of coal-fired power plants worldwide are losing money under normal circumstances, and it could not be more obvious that a prosperous future for Africa does not lie in fossil fuels.
The private sector increasingly recognizes the financial risks implied by continued dependence on fossil fuels: private finance has been shifting away from coal in recent years, and has also begun shifting away from oil and gas investments. They know that prices will not simply bounce back.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Lopes's picks:
by Maxime Rovere
A French philosopher who lives and teaches in Rio de Janeiro offers a highly original take on modern dilemmas, by describing how Baruch Spinoza and his peers established, in the post-Renaissance world, the conceptions of freedom to which we remain attached.
by Hisham Matar
A first-hand account of the author’s return to his native Libya in search of the truth about his father’s mysterious disappearance 22 years earlier. A brilliantly written account of grief and sorrow, and of love and hope, and a reminder of the uncertainty that pervades all of our lives, whether related to our families or a virus.
by Deepak Nayyar
I have been following Nayyar for a long time, and every new opus from him is a must-read, thanks to a refreshing perspective that challenges conventional economic wisdom. His most recent work, which describes Asian countries’ varying development experiences, provides useful guidance for the discussions currently taking place in Africa.
From the PS Archive
Lopes urged Africa’s leaders to move swiftly to secure their place in the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit era. Read more.
Lopes calls for a coordinated investment strategy focused on fostering sustainable development in Africa. Read more.
Around the web
In an interview with New African, Lopes offers insight into the COVID-19 crisis in Africa, and proposes a strategy for managing it successfully – one that begins with ending all fossil-fuel subsidies. Read the transcript.
As a guest on RT France’s “La Grande Interview,” Lopes discusses Africa’s growth prospects after COVID-19. Listen to the French-language podcast.