COP26 should remind extractive industries to be proactive

First Quantum Minerals
President Edgar Lungu during the Tour of Kansanshi Mining PLC in Solwezi on Friday,

The 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change () in Glasgow takes place at a time when the world is desperate for concrete actions on climate challenges. As world leaders meet to discuss climate change impacts (and take symbolic pledges synonymous with this event), the situation in real life is rapidly becoming the biggest emergency facing humanity, especially for poor and marginalised communities.

Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. It is also a continent that can’t protect itself. The irony is that the continent’s extractive industries is both a problem and solution to climate change. On the one hand, Africa is the biggest producer of raw materials needed to facilitate the green energy transition; on the other mining is arguably one of the biggest carbon dioxide emitters. The demand for green minerals is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years; this demand increases a further risk of aggravating changes in the natural environment. Mining is increasingly taking place in climate-sensitive areas with dire implications for other climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. Mining’s contribution to climate change on the continent is in proportion with the sector’s economic importance. However, over the years extractive industries’ approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation has not been proactive. Currently, with its abundant green minerals, Africa is supporting rich countries to achieve green energy transition, while the continent itself remains out of sync with its climate change goals. Despite its economic importance, mining is not doing enough to aid the continent to protect itself from climate change. There is little evidence showing that mining companies are introducing technologies needed to reduce carbon emissions in their operations.

SARW would like to call upon COP26 to remind extractive industries operating on the African continent to be proactive and build adaptation and mitigation measures in their operation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and pollution of the environment. As one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation and destroyer of communities’ livelihood, the sector must be at the centre of conversations to find solutions to climate change challenges. The extractive industries involvement in this discourse will move the agenda forward by a serious stake. So far, the focus of mining companies in Africa has been on investments that maintain a solid hold on supplying essential critical minerals needed by developed nations to respond to climate change in their countries and securing profit but not necessarily on protecting their immediate environment from climate change.

Southern Africa Resource Watch supports an immediate and radical approach to reduce the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to achieve a ‘net-zero carbon’ future. We are, however, cognisant of the fact that the transition to a low carbon economy needs to happen in a just way and requires low-carbon energy technologies which are currently out of reach for the African continent. The mining sector can support the continent in its climate change actions by contributing with financial resources and technological transfer needed in efforts to build effective climate responses.

[Southern Africa Resource Watch]