Stop Waking The Dead: The True Key to A Global Energy Transition is to Stop Waking the Dead

Glory honoured the invitation of the German Federal Government and partners to participate in the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue and deliver a keynote address to the audience of 2000 in person and 17000 people streaming live. Read her speech below:

Stop Waking the Dead

Good afternoon, friends and colleagues in the journey towards sustainable energy. Thank you to the German Federal government and to the organizers of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue for giving me this opportunity to address this gathering. And to you all – thank you for travelling from all over the world to converge here in Germany. I have titled my presentation, “The key to a True Global Energy Transition is to Stop Waking the Dead” to paint a thought provoking picture of our present world and offer a path to redemption. A wise proverb from my home country, Nigeria states: “A living sparrow has more hope than a dead eagle”.

I want to talk about how we are today spending time waking the dead and not enough time tapping into the available and abundant life that is literally right in front of us. In the face of climate change impacts, at a time of global energy transition, fossil fuels which are dead plants, animals and humans, so dangerous that they should have no business being on our atmosphere, are being woken up, being brought back to life. In turn they are claiming lives, through a phenomenon we are calling global warming. I will start my speech today with two stories that I think graphically set the scene best.

In 2014, My parents moved into their newly built home. This was such a happy occasion as they had worked for and saved for 20 long years. You see, it’s often a thing to build a home and finally stop paying rent. There’s a twist to this story: the community where they built their house was off the grid. I watched them spend their entire savings to power the generator only at night. With electricity being only available at night my siblings went out in the community to find local spots to charge their phone and laptops. I remember a time when my brother who had a side business as a mobile barber nearly had a fight with an angry customer because he had failed to show up to cut his hair. This was because my brother had no electricity to charge his battery-powered clipper. My case is hardly alone.

This is sadly the plight of 87 million Nigerians—87 million—A little more than the population of ALL of Germany and 754 million people globally living without Access to electricity. My parents’ experience boggled my mind. Nigeria has the 9th largest gas deposit in the world at 180,490,000 Million Cubic Ft (MMcf). Nigeria’s oil reserves were put at nearly $37 billion barrels in 2021 and ranked 11th out of 20 Countries with largest oil reserves. Nigeria is this rich in oil and gas energy, I wondered PAUSE but have not yet been able to provide constant electricity for its population? WHY?

Hold that thought.

In my second story, I took a stroll in my community one day, and came across what seemed like a small stream of water by the road side with children and women gathered around, except that this body of water was dried up. What was left was a little scrounge at the bottom of the stream – a mere puddle, dirty, depleted, and dismal. This particular community, heavily affected by climate change impact – drought, once had an overflowing stream. Beyond experiencing massive drops in agricultural yield, this community is also exposed to health issues like cholera.

This is sadly the experience of 55 million people —almost the size of the entire population of Italy—in Nigeria currently on the frontlines of drought and desertification and another 20 million people facing acute food insecurity as a result. The two scenarios I explained depict issues with climate change and energy access but they’re not just unique to me, millions of people are already facing these impacts in the global south. As a matter of fact, countries in the Pacific and the Caribbean are on line of being submerged under water in 40 years.

Raise your hand if you remember the foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe’s address to COP 26 in 2021 where he was knee-deep in the Pacific ocean? Keep that image in mind—that’s what I’m talking about. I am not speaking about what will happen in the future. I am talking to you about what is happening now.

This brings me to the thrust of my presentation. As a climate activist, I have had the opportunity of participating as a national delegate in 3 Climate conferences and I have heard global leaders voice out their concerns. I must be honest. I’ve been very disappointed to observe that the focus of concerns at these meetings is how to get more fossil fuel investment, and delaying the phase out of fossil fuels. It seems you leaders are concerned with silently strengthening your dependence on fossil fuels, requesting for more investment on fossil fuels?

Funding the East African Crude Oil Pipeline in Uganda while destroying livelihoods of 100, 000 people?

YOU MUST STOP Waking THE DEAD. When you combust these fossils, the end produce, the C02 gas gets emited into the atmosphere and traps heat causing our earth to warm up extremely. The result is Hurricanes, Lost lives and properties. When these fossils are inhaled by human beigns in traffic or via indoor air pollution, extreme cases of athsma is reported and 2.3 million have died from air pollution in Africa. When you use diesel generator, deaths and severe injuries occur like in 2021, Lagos State, Nigeria reported 30, 000 deaths as a result of generator fumes. Can you see how much it’s costing us? People are dying from climate impacts but arguments are ongoing about whether to fund gas power projects or not! This is shameful

To the G7, China and Russia and the top 10 polluters, the world is watching. And if you continue doing nothing, history will judge you harshly. Your own children will judge you harshly. Let me start from the very beginning, After developing your countries with fossil fuels, you lecture Africa and the global south to halt project or plans of fossil development because of climate change which they themselves have done little to contribute to. You made good of your statement by refusing to fund any of such projects. You invested into fossil power for 2 centuries since the industrial revolution, building the developed economy you have today. But then you have the audacity to ask Africa not to develop theirs in the same way you have done?

You have damaged and spoilt the world with your focus on profit over people. You have single handedly caused the climate to change, in what some are now calling the “Anthropocene” era in which for the first time in the world’s 4.5 billion years, one species alone is changing the environment for all species. You can sit comfortably in your fully electrified offices and homes; and yet have the guts to tell Africa how to generate their electricity! How can you feel their pain? 4 in 10 Africans lack electricity. 1.2million Africans died in 2021 as a result of lack of electricity. Electricity is a matter of urgency in Africa much more than climate change is an issue. Yet you want Africans and the global south to join you to solve the climate change that you created when they only contribute less than 4% of global carbon emissions.

Now this push you’re leading for renewable energy. Is it because you care for the environment or it is purely out of need to champion new technologies that you can sell to the world, especially Africa which you hope may remain in the darkness long enough to keep buying your new technology or to keep buying your Liquefied Natural Gas? After admonishing them to leave their oil / gas! But how could they afford to buy your clean energy technology? Since you’re not providing them substantial funds to transition. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You are asking Africa to leave their fossil resources, but you have not left your coal and gas.

Let’s look around the world starting in America. The US is currently on the highway to becoming the largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas, a position which was aided by the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Even though President Biden has paused the development of new gas power plants, three more LNG plants that were already approved are currently under construction in Louisiana and Texas with the capacity for 100bn metric tonnes. This will add 60 trillion metric tonnes of carbon emission significantly exercabating climate change. Picture completely submerged cities, millions dead and crumbled infrastructure.

Europe today is burning more coal, making deals to extend gas pipelines and planning new LNG terminals. France and China are developing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline on the African soil which will displace thousands of families and farmers from their lands and poses significant risks to water resources including the Lake Victoria on which 40 million people depend on. The oil pipeline stretches for a distance of 1445 Kilometers equivalent to traveling from Hamburg to Munich and back. It would rip through numerous sensitive biodiversity hotspots, and risk significantly degrading several nature reserves.

The COP 28 ended with a clear decision to transition away from fossil fuels and phase down coal, but it seems to me that there are no real plans to follow through. To the G7 and other developed nations, are you really serious about solving the climate challenge? Or is this a chance for you to retain your powers and force others to give up their resources? This double standard has to end. Africa needs to power their industries but you are failing at funding them for renewable energy development. You insist that the strive for climate action is collectively a global effort but you also withholding information on the technical know-how of the manufacturing of new energy technology, you’re failing at technology transfer, you refuse to bring your industries into Africa, but pump money into your own economy under the guise of climate mitigation. PAUSE

Are you not worried or concerned about the current civil unrest in Africa? Out of nine military coups attempt since 2020, four has been successful because of a failure in democracy. In Nigeria, Inflation is at 28% high, people are literally dying of hunger, removal of subsidy has tripled fuel and food price gravely. Nigeria is battling a cost-of-living shock which is wrecking the economy. While this signals a commitment to economic reforms by the new government, Is the G7, China and Russia prepared to handle the civil unrest led by popular anger which is likely to happen this year in the country of 200 million people as predicted by Global risk intelligence company – Verisk Maplecroft? You’re going to have more on your hands to worry about.

Let’s look at the solar bit for a moment. Despite Africa being the region with the highest solar generation potential over the long term, investment in renewable energy in Africa fell to an 11-year low in 2021, comprising just 0.6% of the global total, as you can see on the screen. The little black dot on that graph represents investments in Africa.

It’s time to end the Hypocrisy. This double standard needs to end. Now, I’ve talked about the G7 plus China and Russia, but I freely admit, Africa’s leaders need to held accountable as well. To African leaders, you are corrupt and inefficient. For half a century your corruption have swallowed the aid, grants and finance sent for you to develop our electricity. For fifty years, you’ve struggled to harness your fossil resources, failing even to construct or revive your refineries. Corruption within your electricity sector, under your watch, has brought you to this juncture. And now, you seek support to exploit the same fossil fuels you’ve long failed to develop. Yet, amidst a changing climate, you insist in seeking this assistance. There’s no guarantee that any investment in your gas or oil ventures would deliver the coveted 24/7 electricity, given your historical ineffectiveness over the past five decades.

You’ve proven unable to help yourselves, squandering and flaring the same gas all this time. Tell me, what tangible progress do you have to show for all that money? You African leaders are driven by your insatiable desire for wealth and personal ambition, while you neglect the needs of your own people. By seeking more investments in fossil fuels, you are asking for the opportunity to keep waking up the dead, to keep emitting the fossil fuel that’s already depleting and whose impacts kill Africans in their numbers. To be fair, I agree, you may have lagged behind in development and haven’t utilized your fossil power like the West has done. How come 600 million Africans—much more than the entire population of the EU— still lack access to basic electricity even after millions of dollars have been invested into your electricity sector in the last 50 years?

According to the African Union, $140 billion a year is lost to corruption. That $140 billion could have ensured 24 hours uninterrupted power supply to every citizen in Africa for several years. But instead, it was squandered. In Nigeria for instance there is a call by an accountability group – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) for a probe to investigate the whereabouts of USD 22 billion (NGN 11 Trillion) meant for providing access to electricity since 1999 (24 years) which has vanished into thin air, unaccounted for. Let me remind you…world civilization started in Africa—in Egypt—with the worship of the Sun God Ra. In what may be a twist in history, Africa today has the potential to be a leader in solar energy.

Africa must not fully depend on the G7 or the G20 to fund your transition. Please keep in mind that anyone who funds you will most definitely control you. You must think about innovative ways to raise the finance that you need for energy transition. One of Africa’s oil/gas producing nations says it needs $20 billion yearly for investment into gas infrastructure. These funds could instead be channeled instead to the development of solar power grid systems, and into educating utility workers as well as the citizens on the workings of renewable energy. So I urge the world to channel all investments into developing the renewable energy technology with the strongest potential for success in their region. I have analyzed it by geographic region on the screen. It IS time to step away from the old and welcome the new. Let me wrap up by saying that I know my comments have been at times critical, at times harsh, but understand that they are coming from a place of deep concern.

But also, I believe, from a place of great HOPE and I will share some of that hope with you. The Biden administrations Inflation Reduction Act to support the local manufacturing of solar technology by incentivizing manufacturers sends a strong signal of hope to the world. Europe’s REPowersEU Plan an ambitious move away from Russia fossils and the Fit for 55 a legislative package to achieve 55% reduction in greenhouse gases are encouraging. I must commend Nigeria and Ghana for on the seriousness you have shown on the transition to clean energy with the development of the energy transition plans. Nigeria, followed by Ghana were the first and second countries to establish these plans in Africa. Kudos to Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe for your ambitious plans towards sustainable energy development.

Let me show you with one final story how we establish this hope. It’s about my parents who moved into a community that was offgrid. The story that I started with. After the year 2014, they continued living without electricity access for 7 more years until 2021 when i surprised them with a solar installation at their home. It was my fathers birthday and I had pretended to take them away from the house for a vacation (but the real surprise was really to have the solar system installed in their home while they were away) The joy they expressed in THIS VIDEO at the surprise is the hope that I imagine for 87 million Nigerians living without electricity access. You see, solar power came through for them. Not oil. Not gas. Not coal

To make this change lasting, we created the Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute which has trained 4000 solar engineers to deploy solar solutions. We have so far provided 25, 000 people and counting with electricity access in Nigeria and offset 840,000 tonnes of carbon Dioxide an equivalent of taking 70, 000 fossil powered cars off the streets.If myself, as one individual could do this, imagine what can be achieved if we focus our investments on solar.

One of the major agreements from COP 28 is to triple renewable energy production and capacity globally by 2030, so I want to end by sharing this with you. In Mgbakwu village, Anambra State Nigeria, at the same offgrid community where my parents now call home, we have begun the establishment of the first female-led and youth-powered solar panel factory in the world, a one stop place for the production of solar panels, a hub for new jobs and a tool for economic growth and development.

The primary goals include promoting standardized solar technology, fostering local employment, and building skills for energy transition. We have trained 30 youths from this community on how to build and assemble solar panel and will employ them at this factory increasing local acceptance of solar panel, promoting electricity access and combating climate change. Think what will happen when we manufacture renewable energy technology in Africa, we can save our currency and bequeath an honourable legacy for our children.

This is our pact.

Tomorrow is March 20th, the first full Spring day, PAUSE a new dawn. I urge you, do away with the dead and let new life spring forth. A change of heart instead of greenwashing, a prioritization of people instead of profit. Stop Waking the dead. Let’s leave the fossils in the ground where they belong. Lets develop life giving forms of energy that is renewable, that is abundant, never depletes. Let’s bequeath a healthy planet for our children. I will finish my speech today, where I began. With the Nigerian proverb I mentioned, “a living sparrow is better than a dead eagle’’. Let us promote life through clean energy and leave dead fossils behind.

Together, let’s Unite for Climate and stand for a true and sustainable energy transition.

Thank you.

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