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Does the Dash for Gas Spell a Potential Disaster for Africa?

African countries should be able to exploit their vast natural gas reserves despite the urgent need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, the former UN climate envoy Mary Robinson has said. Robinson, the chair of the Elders group of former world statespeople and business leaders, said African countries’ need for energy was so great that they should use gas widely, in contrast to developed countries that must halt their gas use as quickly as possible to stave off climate breakdown. She pointed to the 600 million people in Africa without access to electricity and the 900 million who use biomass or dirty oil cooking stoves, who could use gas as a less polluting alternative. “There has to be a certain leeway to tackle the energy poverty in Africa, and give Africa a faster capability to move,” she said. African leaders will bring forward similar arguments ahead of Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, which is certain to make the issue a flashpoint at the UN climate summit that is seen as a chance for African countries to gain global attention for their vulnerability to the climate crisis, and their economic potential. Robinson’s intervention is likely to inflame controversy after two weeks of UN preparatory talks for Cop27 convened in Bonn, Germany, from Monday. While some back the idea that African gas can be exploited while the EU and developed countries find green alternatives, others see an African dash for gas as a potential disaster.