This op-ed originally appeared in Project Syndicate on May 17, 2022. The following is an excerpt.
Growing economies and growing populations mean growing energy needs. The international community must collaborate with developing countries to meet those needs through universal access to energy that is affordable, reliable, and clean. At the same time, we must enable a just and equitable transition away from coal and other fossil fuels, in accordance with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Nowhere is this truer than in Africa, which has rich solar- and wind-energy potential and has made great progress using other renewable sources, including hydro, geothermal, and biofuels. But without international support, including investment at scale, African countries will not be able to expand energy access to all and still reach their climate goals.
The alternative – increased reliance on coal – would have devastating consequences. Globally, coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change, and increasing coal use will make communities even more vulnerable to its effects. Burning coal and other fossil fuels also spews deadly chemicals into the air and water, contributing to the more than one million deaths globally from fossil-fuel combustion each year.