He knew the proposed plant’s wastewater, ash pit and mercury emissions posed severe well being and environmental dangers to the native fishing and farming communities. Access to scrub consuming water was below risk from the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions and related acid rain, and there would have been a transparent influence on the regional local weather.
Ezekiel, who’s from the capital, Accra, was already the founding father of an NGO centered on good environmental governance and began what turned a profitable grassroots youth motion to cease the development of the $1.5 billion plant, which included a transport port to herald coal.
He ran a social media marketing campaign emphasizing the threats of the proposed plans to the surroundings and native communities, detailing the attainable long-term job creation which may include a shift to renewable power.
“If the world is trying to move away from environmental destruction because of the fossil fuel, then Africa shouldn’t be seen as perpetuating that era,” stated Ezekiel over a webcall.
He was awarded the distinguished Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa on November 30, which honors the achievements and management of grassroots environmental activists.
Ezekiel’s victory is however considered one of many battles raging throughout the continent between activists, Chinese firms and African governments.
Despite the reputational danger, Chinese firms have continued to finance the development of coal crops, drawing ire from environmental activists, whereas African leaders are selecting fast repair options to impress their international locations.
China’s soiled belt and highway
“Coal has no place in Covid-19 recovery plans,” he stated through video hyperlink throughout a web-based summit hosted by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
But regardless of these guarantees to section out soiled, high-carbon initiatives at house and overseas, Chinese banks and corporations are nonetheless financing seven coal crops in Africa just like the one deliberate for the Ekumfi district, with 13 extra within the pipeline, largely south of the Sahara.
It was the China-Africa Development fund that was alleged to finance the coal energy plant in Ghana, a personal fairness fund solely backed by China Development Bank, a state authorities coverage financial institution.
Since 2000 the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China alone have equipped $6.5 billion of finance for coal initiatives in Africa, in accordance with the Boston University Global Development Policy Center. China has a quickly creating financial system with many sectors depending on fossil fuels and it at present contributes 26% of worldwide carbon emissions, in accordance with the Green Belt and Road Initiative Center (Green-BRI).
African governments have been joyful to push forward with soiled power initiatives that solely the Chinese will finance. The potential of a reliable power infrastructure fueled by low-cost coal is attractive for a rustic like Zimbabwe, given the power deficits slowing financial development. The nation has a nationwide energy demand starting from 2,200-2,400 megawatts however solely supplies about 1,300, in accordance with the Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG).
Energy shortages and energy cuts are commonplace in Ghana, exacerbated by drought situations due to the nation’s dependency on hydro-electricity. Its power disaster left it susceptible to power builders and international funding earlier than Ezekiel intervened.
Like different international locations investing in Africa, China additionally guarantees jobs, whereas profiting from lax insurance policies and cheaper development prices. Many governments select to fulfill the demand for power at the price of a clear surroundings.
This is regardless of each African nation having ratified the Paris Agreement, aside from Angola, Libya, South Sudan and Eritrea.
“Policy on renewable projects is weak or non-existent in Africa,” stated Han Chen, the supervisor of worldwide power coverage on the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit worldwide environmental advocacy group. “In China, environmental standards are pretty high, while South Africa or Kenya, for example, have energy policies that make it easier for investors to get involved.”
If present plans go forward, the Chinese-backed coal energy output in Africa at present being financed might treble by the point the nation realizes its objective of carbon neutrality in 2060, in accordance with Global Energy Monitor.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Activism throughout the continent
Ezekiel will not be alone in combating for an Africa centered on renewable power.
It will obtain monetary help from the development firm China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC), and nation danger insurance coverage prices are prone to be lined by the China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), in accordance with Global Energy Monitor.
ZELA says the mission is shrouded in secrecy and RioZim has not offered info on the environmental or socio-economic impacts of the plant.
When contacted for remark, RioZim replied that “any media engagements are strictly prohibited” below the availability of their “non-disclosure agreements.”
South Africa’s $10 billion, 3,000-megawatt Musina-Makhado energy station shall be financed by Chinese firms, each state-owned and personal, with PowerChina alone contributing $4.5 billion, in accordance with a memorandum of settlement signed in July 2018.
It is a part of the proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) within the Limpopo province north of Pretoria, a mega industrial hub which can span greater than 6,000 hectares.
A pre-feasibility research performed by UK engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald stated direct impacts of the location the place the coal plant shall be positioned embody “detrimental effect on the biodiversity assets of the region,” “disruption of ecological functioning and pollution of water resources” and “large-scale land transformation.” There shall be a “definite” launch of “significant” greenhouse emissions, in accordance with a preliminary influence evaluation.
“The country can’t afford to be locking in to a hugely polluting, expensive and carbon-intensive mega project at a time when — more than ever — we need to act against the climate crisis, protect the resilience of vulnerable, water scarce areas and preserve our limited state funds and resources for projects with positive outcomes and benefits for all,” stated Michelle Koyama, an lawyer at Cape Town’s non-profit Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).
The Limpopo Provincial Government, PowerChina and the Chinese embassy in South Africa didn’t reply to requests for remark.
East of Pretoria, Kusile Power Station is being constructed with $2.5 billion from China Development Bank and sponsorship from Eskom, South Africa’s greatest polluter.
The South African surroundings division launched a felony investigation towards the electrical public utility firm in May 2019 over air high quality issues at its Kendal Power Station.
Eskom confirmed to CNN that it has been summoned to look in entrance of a regional court docket to reply to felony fees associated to the Kendal plant. These embody exceeding the emissions restrict on air pollution and supplying false or deceptive info to an air high quality officer.
Fossil gas advocates argue that the power offered by the crops is significant for growth, however centralized coal has did not ship electrical energy to over 2.5 million households in South Africa and may be pricey, in accordance with Greenpeace.
“Despite the government promising to provide the people of South Africa with affordable electricity, many of them cannot afford Eskom’s coal-powered electricity — the costs of which continue to escalate,” stated Koyama. “Ironically the same communities who live next door to these coal plants, and have to suffer their impacts daily, do not have reliable, affordable electricity in their homes.”
No coal plant brings well being advantages and Chinese firms aren’t alone in receiving criticism for financing their development.
“Coal investments come with a lot of human rights violations,” Nqobizitha Ndlovu, a constitutional and human rights lawyer who’s the authorized adviser to ZELA, informed CNN in a telephone dialog. “There are a lot of complaints here in Zimbabwe, and across all of Africa, that these projects do not respect the right to be healthy, to have a safe and clean environment or the right to water.”
When requested whether or not they would reevaluate their relationship with Eskom in gentle of the felony fees, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase declined to remark.
However whereas western firms have pulled again from funding in coal crops, Chinese plans are nonetheless forging forward.
“You’re locking a lot of countries into a coal-dependent pathway and the pollution can be horrendous,” stated Chen.
A inexperienced future
After seeing his 2016 marketing campaign empower communities, Ezekiel is hopeful. He spent 4 days talking with chiefs, elders, fishermen and different native teams in Ekumfi, explaining the positives of renewable power, particularly the probabilities for long-term employment.
“We agree that there are people who are unemployed and that jobs are critical,” stated Ezekiel. “But we believe that there’s a better alternative in the area of renewable energy which guarantees employment not only for the short term, but for a long time.”
Chen agrees, saying there was “pushback” from communities. “There’s sometimes a disconnect between a national bilateral agreement and what those on the ground actually want,” he stated.
Ezekiel launched the Children for Climate Action (C4C) initiative to contain kids (in addition to younger folks) within the struggle towards local weather change and the no coal debate. As a nationwide coordinator of 350 Ghana Reducing our Carbon (350 G-ROC), Ezekiel can be encouraging different African international locations (notably Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria) to withstand international funding in coal.
“A huge mobilization of young people is needed to create more public awareness and education, but we must provide skills and facilities for the youth to be employed, so we can demonstrate that energy indeed provides more job opportunities,” Ezekiel stated.
The pan-African activism has had some success and lately coal initiatives have been shelved in Nigeria, Mozambique and Botswana, amongst others.
CER has efficiently stopped the development of a proposed 557-megawatt plant at Thabametsi alongside environmental organizations Earthlife and Groundwork. It is difficult the environmental authorization for one more at Khanyisa, the place a water-use licence has already been rescinded.
On the intercontinental stage, Ezekiel is inspired by the election of Joe Biden as the following president of the United States.
“I would say it is a victory not only for the US, but for the world as a whole,” he stated. “He has made comments to the effect that he is prepared to put America back into the Paris agreement. That’s a very big plus.”
China has really develop into the biggest inexperienced finance market, with about 11 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) in inexperienced credit score and about 1 trillion yuan ($150 billion) in inexperienced bonds, in accordance with Green-BRI. Growing this market has helped management the air pollution and ecological harm ensuing from 40 years of maximum financial development.
Ultimately coal is a fading trade and China is sort of alone in financing coal energy in Africa. As banks in different international locations proceed to snub the gas, it is seemingly that Chinese cash will construct the final ever coal plant.
If the financial behemoth needs to take its dedication to combating international warming critically, it must cease financing coal crops abroad. For Ezekiel and different activists, the struggle is popping of their favor.