Report

October 17, 2022
Who Decides Africa’s Net Zero Pathways? Five ways to fix how we model African energy transitions and why it matters for climate and development
By Rose Mutiso, Ken Caldeira, Murefu Barasa, Moussa Blimpo, Lauren Culver, Habiba Ahut Daggash, Michael Dioha, Zeke Hausfather, June Lukuyu, Joel Nana, Joan Nkiriki, Lily Odarno, Katie Auth

Summary

To achieve an equitable global net zero future, lower-income and under-electrified countries must play a much bigger role in deciding how we get there. Africa will be home to roughly a quarter of the world’s total population by 2050 and is a vital source of resources critical to the energy transition. Mapping viable global pathways to a net zero emissions energy system cannot happen without African leadership, analysis, and data. Energy systems modeling is central to exploring transition scenarios and helping decision-makers weigh timelines, technology options, and infrastructure investments.

But today, the vast majority of analyses addressing the African energy transition are deeply flawed. Global or regional modeling efforts often apply very little (sometimes zero) analytic rigor to African economies. They often rely on data and trends from other regions that do not reflect local markets, and make limited assumptions about future growth. And models are most often conducted by non-African institutions and analysts. Because these analyses are already playing a significant role in shaping policies and climate negotiations, these gaps may have enormous consequences for Africa’s future.

A global energy transition relying on modeling approaches that assume Africa will remain poor, sideline development priorities, and prioritize the perspectives of wealthy economies is destined to fail.

This report details what’s wrong with the current approach, explains why better modeling matters to climate and development goals, and lays out five priorities to better model inclusive and prosperous transitions to net zero energy systems in Africa:

  1. Place sustainable development at the center of energy transition modeling.
  2. Expand access to (and integration of) critical Africa-specific data.
  3. Strengthen long-term demand forecasting in African markets.
  4. Improve communication around the content and purpose of energy transition models.
  5. Build and strengthen the African institutions and analysts doing this work.

Energy systems modeling is not an end in itself. But it is a crucial tool in improving our collective understanding of what’s needed to get to net zero – and to ensure that when we do, the world is more prosperous and more equitable.

Read our full report (11 pg) here.

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