Head of UN Environment Programme calls renewable energy an area in need of large investment and expertise to meet the continent's massive demand
China and Africa should forge a new partnership to develop green economies that are economically attractive to capital and investors, says the head of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UNEP, says 65 to 70 percent of Africa's population doesn't have electricity, so there is an enormous need for investment in the energy sector. China could play a tremendously important role via South-South cooperation to enable Africa to embrace traditional and renewable energy.
He spoke during an exclusive interview with China Daily in Beijing on June 10, after a ceremony marking publication of the first textbook in Chinese on green economies for Chinese researchers and college students.
"During the past three to four years, many African countries have proved their ability to develop renewable energy. Kenya has greatly enhanced its geothermal and wind power," he says.
"Morocco, Ghana, Mauritania, Ethiopia and South Africa have all developed their own green economy policies."
The UNEP is closely collaborating with the African Union to respond to the priority of finding ways for renewable energy to play a significant role, not only a marginal one, in expanding electricity in the continent.
"China can not only share its own development experience with Africa, but can also invest its technology and financing on the continent now, not in five or 10 years' time," he adds. "China has a comprehensive understanding of environmental protection and has focused its efforts on environment degradation and pollution, which can be addressed by African leaders, too."
When a country raises environmental issues and a green economy to a national level, clear signals are sent to investors that investment in a green economy will be encouraged, he says.
"Kenya mobilized nearly $1 billion from both international and domestic investors to develop its geothermal and renewable energy last year," he adds. "In South Africa, 75 to 80 percent of a $14 billion fund raised from three major auctions of power generation licenses since 2011 was from the domestic financial market. So the scarcity of renewable energy is attractive to all capital and investors."
But he also says African governments should ease risks and give more confidence to investors that the country's business environment and policies are sustainable and stable.
China's renewable energy industry is already an important export industry, and it will contribute more to Africa's economic development under the new partnership, he says. But major investments in the green economy from China to Africa have not yet happened.
Steiner visited China to attend the International Advisory Meeting on Environment and Development for China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), held in Beijing on June 9 and 10. He also signed several memoranda of understanding with Chinese media and universities to deepen the relationship between UNEP and related parties, with an aim to raising public awareness and professional capacity building in environmental protection and sustainable development.
(China Daily European Weekly 06/12/2015 page3)