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154: African Clean Energy Access: Why Gas Cannot Be The Future Africa Chooses with Rachel Kyte

In this episode, we talk about the impacts of living through a global energy crisis while living through a climate crisis.

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About this episode

Inflation is running at 10% in most major economies, the highest in decades. This is driven primarily by the cost of food and energy. And while most of us are aware of higher prices at the pump and on energy bills, today we focus on the hardest place it is hitting: Africa.

Since 2019, 4% of Africans have lost access to affordable energy, undoing a decade of gains.  And with a desire in the Global North to get off of Russian Gas, there is higher demand for gas, and therefore pushing more and more people out of the ability to afford it. This week in response, African Ministers made the case for expanding gas production in Africa, amidst a climate crisis.

So that’s the setup for this week’s discussion - we bring in Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University to argue the case on how to move forward out of this complicated situation.

And be sure to stick around ‘til the end for a brand new tune from Carmody titled, “Mother.”

Enjoy the show!



Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!

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Mentioned links from the episode:

READ: Vanessa Nakate’s Op-Ed in Aljazeera

READ: SG António Guterres’ 5 Point Plan on Renewable Energy

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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres

Paul: [00:00:17] And I am Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:00:18] This week we talk about the impacts of living through a global energy crisis while we're also facing a climate crisis. We speak to Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. And we have music from Carmody. Thanks for being here. So anyone who's paying attention will know we have a full blown cost of living crisis on our hands. At the moment, inflation is running at 10% in most major economies, the highest in decades. And this is driven primarily by the cost of food and energy. Now, the food issue is extremely serious. We've seen wheat go up four times in Egypt in the last couple of months. India has banned the export of grain. This is a humanitarian crisis in the making. And we're going to delve into this next week. But today we're going to talk about energy. Now, listeners will likely already have had a visceral reminder of energy prices when at the pump or paying their electricity bills. The war in Ukraine is causing a spike in prices everywhere. But while we all suffer today, we're going to focus on one area where this is hitting the hardest, and that is Africa. Africa has already seen a drop in energy access during the pandemic. Since 2019, there's been a drop of 4% in the number of Africans with access to affordable energy, which reverses a decade of gains. Now, on top of this, a desire in the global north to get off Russian gas is pushing up prices of African production and more people are unable to afford access. In response, African ministers made the case this week at the Sustainable Energy for All summit that they now want to expand the production of gas on the continent of Africa. This is all while facing a critical climate crisis. So that's the setup for this week. I'd like to invite you to come in. Why shouldn't Africa now massively expand gas production? Load More

Christiana: [00:02:18] Well, thanks for setting that up, Tom. But let's go first to the macro context, because the Sustainable Energy for All forum takes place, obviously, within the context of current climate factors that are breaking all records on the same day that the African ministers are requesting support for gas, on that very same day, the World Meteorological Organization released its State of the Global Climate Report for last year for 2021, because there's always a data lag here. Now, the scary thing is it is a compliment to the latest report that we had from the IPCC and or but it actually is even more terrifying because they tell us very clearly that four of the key climate change indicators, greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification actually set new records in 2021, and one can reasonably assume that it will only get worse in 2022. Now, without going into all of these details, let's just look at one number. I don't know, Tom and Paul, if you remember, when we cross the threshold of 400 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, I mean, it's not like it wasn't in our lifetime, right? It was just a few years ago. And already at that point we were absolutely panicked. I remember that I used to start speeches by asking people, please take a breath of air and realise that this is a historic moment. For the first time in the history of humanity, we're breathing air that has 400 parts per million in it. Well, we're not at 400 anymore. We are now at 420. I mean, are we absolutely mad? Absolutely mad. And the curve is only exponentially increasing. It is just completely unbelievable. It is frankly terrifying what we continue to do. The Secretary General has responded to this report and as we know, he has totally taken on the challenge of climate change as his main concern for the world. He responds with a scathing speech in which he calls fossil fuels deadly fossil fuels. He talks about incinerating our home planet. He is absolutely not mincing his words at all. He is terrified, as all the rest of us are. And then he also very helpfully puts out a five point plan of what we can do about it, and we will get to that. But how is it possible that knowing all of this, we still continue to burn fossil fuels and increase concentrations in our atmosphere, which has the direct effect that we just saw in India, Pakistan, Somalia. That's the direct consequence.

Paul: [00:05:44] So let's go outrage seeing as we're talking about it. I mean, I just cannot believe that according to the UN in 2021 nearly 193 million people suffered acute food insecurity. But to your point about the parts per million, the last time, according to the NOAA, the North American Government Atmospheric Administration, the last time CO2 densities were at this level was more than 3 million years ago in the mid Pliocene warm period. And at that time sea level was 15 to 25 meters higher than it is today. 

Christiana: [00:06:26] Jesus.

Tom: [00:06:26] Jesus.

Paul: [00:06:26] So, you know, we're just in a completely unprecedented, super terrifying situation. And as you say, the idea of continuing or indeed increasing fossil fuel combustion at this time is insane.

Tom: [00:06:42] But it's it's manifesting all around the world so quickly. I mean, I don't want to take us too far away from Africa, but as you started talking about it, we should also point out there's a very important election in Australia too.

Paul: [00:06:52] Australian listeners who've been contacting us saying, why are you not talking about the important election.

Christiana: [00:06:56] Saturday

Paul: [00:06:59] Please make sure you vote to save the world because it's kind of like it's really important.

Tom: [00:07:03] Please, we'd really appreciate it. And actually, for those who are interested, there's an article on the BBC at the moment called How Climate is Making Australia More Unliveable. And there are large areas, particularly in the east of the country, but not only all around the country, there are more than 30% of homes are projected to be uninsurable by 2030. I mean, this is unbelievable how quickly this is coming at us. And yet we're still seeing that contest should not be a contest, right? If this is happening so quickly, we should see the candidates that are going to do something about this running away with it.

Paul: [00:07:36] Let me tell you a tiny insurance story, believe it or not, in 2001 with Tessa, we went to see the director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers, and he was very dark on climate change 21 years ago. And I said, does anything like climate change happened before? And he thought for a while, and he said that after the Nazi bombing of Guernica in 1937, I think it was either 36 or 37 that the world's insurance companies got together and agreed they wouldn't cover war damage. So all the renewable renewal notices that went out in 1938 and 1939 said if your property is destroyed by war, we won't pay out. So unfortunately, the insurance companies are not Mother Christmas who are going to save us from this. They're simply going to put the premiums through the roof so no one can afford them or simply withdraw.

Christiana: [00:08:20] Now, they're already excluding. It's a very good point. But many insurance companies are already excluding highly vulnerable areas and refusing to give any insurance coverage. So we're already at that point.

Paul: [00:08:36] Or just charge crazy fees that no one can possibly afford.

Christiana: [00:08:38] Do you remember my insurance story before Paris, where several of the CEOs of major insurance companies admitted publicly that if the world ever got beyond two degrees of warming, that we would be living in an uninsurable world. Yeah, we're heading in that direction. What the hell?

Tom: [00:09:00] Yeah, we're nearly there in many cases.

Paul: [00:09:04] And another thing about gas that was just we were just picking up, you know, with methane leakage rates of around 2 to 3% recorded in the US, for example, gas can be as carbon intensive as coal, if not worse. So we've, you know, there's just absolutely no reason for this and it's kind of madness. So I'm glad that we've got a real expert that we can talk to in the form of Rachel Kyte.

Christiana: [00:09:26] So guys, we never know when we time these interviews, we never know what is going to be current at the moment of the interview, I must say how absolutely fortuitous that on the evening that we were able to grab 20, 25 minutes of Rachel Kyte's time was the same day in which scenario A, this terrifying report from the WMO and the SG’s scathing speech comes out and on the same day as scenario B completely unrelated, it seems we have a public statement from African ministers requesting support for gas. How is it possible that these two things happen on the same day? And we're so lucky to have Rachel on the microphone with us to help us make sense of this.

Tom: [00:10:18] She's just one of the most eloquent people on this issue on the face of the planet, this is a fantastic interview. You're going to love it. So let's go to the interview sooner than we normally would so that we can hear from an expert on this issue, and then we'll come back afterwards for a longer conversation. Rachel Kyte is somebody that we've known for many years. She is a remarkable leader in this space right now. She's the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, obviously preeminent foreign policy school in the US, but she's had a long history in these issues. She was a vice president of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. She was also the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, which is a part of the UN. And while she was serving in that position, she was also a special representative of the UN Secretary General. She was a close ally as we were going through the years running up to the Paris Agreement. Paul and I couldn't make this conversation because it happened late at night, so it was just Christiana. So here's this amazing conversation with Rachel Kyte, and we'll be back afterwards for some more discussion.

Christiana: [00:11:18] Rachel, thank you so much for joining us here on Outrage + Optimism. And the first thing I want to say is how on earth is it possible that you're in Costa Rica, I'm in Costa Rica and we're having gotten together in person for a big old hug and we're actually only seeing each other on Zoom. This is absolutely terrible. We have to see how we repair that damage.

Rachel Kyte: [00:11:41] Yeah, we're going to have to, I'm going to have to come back. It's been too long and it is lovely to see you, even if it's just on a screen.

Christiana: [00:11:48] You know, I would really love to have you come here for some very needed pampering after the amount of work that you have on your shoulders. Rachel, but that will have to wait for the time being anyway. Here we are. Rachel We are recording this on Wednesday, May 18th, a day in which we honestly are being pulled in two directions from two very different views of the world. And how exciting to have you here to try to make some sense of this. Rachel, you have been working on energy access for years. If there's one person who really knows the challenges of energy access and the consequences for poverty alleviation or not, it is you and Rachel. So here we are. On the one hand, we have a scathing, terrifying report from the World Meteorological Organization, which honestly should have our hair on fire. Every time we hear from climate science, it just gets worse and worse and worse. So we have a terrifying report to which the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reacts in no uncertain terms. No uncertain terms. He talks about deadly fossil fuels. He talks about incinerating our home.

Christiana: [00:13:23] My sense is he has really reached the maximum tolerance that he could possibly muster for our irresponsible, continued use of fossil fuels. And he puts out a very interesting five point plan of what we can do to get ourselves out of this hole. So that's one voice. Then we have on the very same day, we have a statement coming out from African ministers that actually calls for a very different development path and a very different frankly, a very different world that it would take us to, in which they call not just for the right to use gas indefinitely, but actually they are calling for active financial support for that. So at end, we know, Rachel, that Africa as a continent is the most vulnerable to climate change, the least responsible and the one that is already feeling most of the effects of climate change. And that will only continue. So how do we bring these two things together? Are we, you know, some people from Mars and some from Venus or they're coming from two completely different planets? Or are we all looking at Mother Earth here?

Rachel Kyte: [00:14:46] No, I think it's a great question. And I think we're all looking at Mother Earth and we're all paying the price for having for too long put off to tomorrow what we needed to do today. And we're all paying the price for the developed world, the global north, the West, having just kicked the can down the road. I think we're also paying the price for not getting the justice part of this right earlier. So we had this massive campaign to stop financing for that which was poisoning us, in particular coal. And now a debate around oil and gas. And you saw at the climate talks in November, the first beginning of coalitions to stop public financing for oil and gas was Costa Rica. You know, the little example, you know, the green country that could. But while we were doing that and we've done that very successfully, I would say as a climate movement, as an international community, the international community has not done enough to support countries to close their energy access gaps. And those countries that have the greatest energy access gaps are clustered mostly now in sub-Saharan Africa.

Christiana: [00:15:59] Rachel, sorry, when you say that we haven't done enough to close the energy access gap, that statement you're making technology neutral, is that right, or are you inserting technology preference into that statement?

Rachel Kyte: [00:16:13] No, I think I think it's both. I think it's technology neutral in that historically, you know, Africa has not emitted very much. And if you close the energy access gap today using fossil fuel technology, we're talking about, you know, between 600 and 800 million people living in low income countries. And so that would not be the bulk of the global emissions, even if we were to fill it with fossil fuels. However, the cheapest, quickest, most reliable way to get those people energy access is using distributed renewables, because who are those people? Most of those people are living beyond or below the power lines and all of the investment that we've made in the fossil fuel centralised energy systems of sub-Saharan Africa up to now from the World Bank and from other development agencies and from the private sector, etc., have never reached those people. Why? Or because they're not clustered in large groups and so they're not big voter groups or because they're voiceless within society, or it's too difficult.

Christiana: [00:17:22] And because it doesn't obey the structure, the infrastructure system of fossil fuels, which is completely different than renewables.

Rachel Kyte: [00:17:30] Yeah. And so, you know, you were very kind in your introduction, but I stand on the shoulders as do you, right? Of countless women in particular, but countless people working at the community level who've taken risks, who've built up business models using decentralised, distributed, renewable energy technology. And we know that we can do this. And it's not that people have to sort of just, you know, get by with a solar home system. We're talking about mini grids. We're talking about sophisticated ways of getting sufficient, productive use of energy into people's hands. And they are we face a situation whereby we really do have an energy crisis and Africa is going to be at the fore of that energy crisis because we have a massive dislocation. As Europe pivots away from Russian oil, gas and coal, it now needs to go into the market to acquire gas, in particular in the short run, in order to survive the coming winter, it needs to ramp up renewables massively. And we'll come back to what the secretary general says about that in a minute. And so it's acquiring gas from Qatar and from the market from Algeria, Nigeria, wherever it can get it. And African countries are saying, oh, so you want our gas to get you through the winter, but you won't invest in us having more gas for ourselves. The problem is,

Christiana: [00:18:47] But that's a very good question. That's a very logical question to ask Rachel, isn't it?

Rachel Kyte: [00:18:53] It's a completely logical question. And we see accusations of green colonialism all over because there is a feeling if you put yourself in many of our African colleagues' shoes of the West dictating terms. Right, the cost of capital is too high. Trade terms are dictated. They're worried that if we put barriers on trade CBAM that's going to be punitive to the developing world. So they have lots of reasons to fear the IMF. We're supposed to get them more money to help them get through the COVID. There was an SDR issue, $650 Billion. Only about 50 of that has flowed back for the uses that are available to developing countries. The developing countries don't like the terms that they have to borrow from the IMF on. These institutions were created in the middle of the 20th century at a time when most of these countries were not even free. And so there's all this resentment and you can understand why, because we've and then, of course, where's the 100 billion of public and publicly leveraged climate finance that never materialized either. Oh, where are the vaccines? Will they never materialize either? So it's like insult after insult after insult. And so Africa says, okay, well, we'll do it for ourselves. However, doing it for ourselves is dangerous if it means investing in new gas exploration, new gas generating capacity, if we know that that is going to be a stranded asset in a very few years time because we have to decarbonize. But then you have to ask, well, where is the West's support for this massive ramp up of renewable energy? And the truth be told, it hasn't been there yet. But can it be now? That's the question.

Christiana: [00:20:36] Hasn't been there. So let me play that scenario out, Rachel, just to see if I have understood you. Here's the scenario that I'm taking from what you said. The West, call it Europe mostly, is saying in order to derussify our energy matrix, we need to buy gas in the short term, call it one or two years max while we invest massively into renewables and then switch over to clean energy sources. For that to happen, we in Europe, we are going to buy gas from let's call it Africa, because now we're talking about Africa. And so therefore, please send us the gas that you have. Oh, you don't have enough. Well, we need more. Two years hence, Europe will not buy any more gas because they will have shifted over. In the meantime, Africa, what would have gone into debt to build more infrastructure, to be extracting more gas? Who are they going to sell it to? The market is gone. The market is completely dried up and it is not even a source that they can use for themselves because the infrastructure of it is simply not up to the challenges of a well distributed population that would be better off with distributed energy. Is that a scenario?

Rachel Kyte: [00:22:12] Yeah, I think that's a good summary. And I think there's some little wrinkles in there as well, which is I mean, I think before the war broke out with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, energy prices were already on the rise. There were already shortages and some pain points across many low income countries, many middle income countries. There was already pressure as gas prices were so high globally, there was already pressure to drill for more. And there's obviously a very, very well financed and well coordinated lobby. And the gas industry, which was looking like it was losing the argument in the global north, had already switched a lot of its lobbying down to the global south. So this debate was already being cast and then the war came along and I think has brought excruciating emphasis to this. And I think the other thing is that the US is going to start, you know, the US is in negotiations with the EU. They're agreeing on how much gas LNG they will provide to Europe. I think there are very good analysis from IEFA and others that can be provided without any more exploration or any new drilling. But that's not the discussion in Washington. And then you see you see the same pressure in Canada. And so, you know, even in countries like Denmark, where I think the Danish prime minister has come out with probably the most comprehensive sort of response, which is if you want to be a patriotic Dane, then we're going to double down on energy efficiency and we're going to double down on renewables, which would all be in line with what the International Energy Agency is saying. But even in a country like Denmark, where the massive, you know, the largest part, the lion's share of their energy mix is renewable and has been for years. You know, there's still a fossil fuel lobby. Let's open up Danish water for exploration of fossil fuels. So it's pervasive and I think it's going to get worse. So it's not just an African issue, but Africa finds itself with the largest number of people who don't have energy access. That's essential for growth and development. And the continent has really suffered badly at the hands of the dislocation as a result of the pandemic and the pandemic and now the effects of the war. So Africa has become the focal point of this.

Christiana: [00:24:37] And rightly so. So now here is today's challenge. Everything that we have said boils down to admiring the problem. Enough of that. How do we get ourselves out of this? Do you sense that there is enough political will, financial savvy, long term vision? Is there enough of all of those for the West, let's call it the EU, USA, Canada and others to actually, in the conditions that we have right now, post pandemic Russian war, to actually make the financial commitments to help Africa shift over, despite the fact that African ministers have just called for the opposite. How do we get out of that?

Rachel Kyte: [00:25:31] So the big trouble here is whether or not the war has shocked people enough into the need for this extraordinary ramp up in renewable energy, which we should have been doing, but.

Christiana: [00:25:44] Apparently not in Africa. Right. That has not happened in Africa.

Rachel Kyte: [00:25:48] But but but but elsewhere. So bear with me. So you would have thought that the climate crisis would have done that? It didn't. But now the war has concentrated people's minds. The only way out of this for Europe is to ramp up renewables. The difficulty is that at the same time, we're also becoming very aware of what happens when you are overly dependent on one country in a supply chain, Russian oil. So we're overly dependent on China for the component parts of the solar supply chain, for example, in particular, but also other renewable energy supply chains. And we have inflation, general inflation. And so for the first time, renewables are getting more expensive just at the time when we want to really ramp them up. But that means that there's an opportunity, for example, for.

Christiana: [00:26:31] Still cheaper than fossil fuels.

Rachel Kyte: [00:26:33] Still cheaper than fossil fuels. That, depending on where you put your subsidies, etc. but still cheaper. But that gives an enormous opportunity, for example, to onshore production or friend-shore production, as Janet Yellen has described. So making sure that your production of all the component parts of a solar supply chain is being made in a country where you are an ally and a friend and not in somebody that's potentially an enemy. So for India, for example, India has to ramp up its renewables anyway to meet its 2030 target, that 50% of its electricity will be coming from renewables. It then needs to potentially ramp up even faster so that it can set off a green hydrogen revolution. And then it would have to ramp up even faster if it were to produce renewables that could then be exported to Africa and the rest of South-East Asia, etc.. But so this is now where people are focused. And the good thing is that they are focused. So what do we need? We need a ramp up,

Christiana: [00:27:34] Sorry, can I just push you on that one? Because everything that you've just said actually has to do with the US getting its act together, domestically, the EU getting its act together domestically, India getting its act to act together domestically. How is Africa going to get on to this transition if there is no helping hand reached out to it?

Rachel Kyte: [00:27:58] Well, so I think this new focus that we do have to ramp up renewables means that as part of that package, it's not just renewables for Europe or renewables for the US, it's renewables for the world. And certainly if India builds its capacity, India could be a big partner for sub-Saharan Africa and that obviously was being discussed. But if you talk to Ajay Mathur, the head of the International Solar Alliance, he will tell you that now is the moment and now we really have to put the pedal to the metal. So then the question is, as we are ramping up and we're building this stuff, we're creating this stuff all over the world, not just in China. We will have to fix the blockages in the supply chains and the disruptions in the supply chain. So they have to be fixed. We need a massive global scale alliance to ramp up battery storage that doesn't have to be in the global north that has to be global. So Africa would benefit from that. And that's one of the things the Secretary General called for. We need to accelerate domestic reform at the policy pathway that can be in all countries. I mean, at the Fletcher School, we're working across five African countries now looking at the policy pathway so that you can ramp up renewables really quickly. This is where we could be working and every lesson that we learn in one country could look at how it applies to another.

Rachel Kyte: [00:29:21] Look at what Sebastian kind is doing at Green Map with a sort of regulatory and administrative pathway in a box that countries could just take and use and plug and play, as it were. And then we need to, of course, get rid of the harmful subsidies, and that will apply in African countries as well as it does to many other countries. And then of course, we need the financing. Now, this is really interesting because what the Secretary General called today was for the multilateral development banks, the Bretton Woods institutions to get serious about this crisis and to really sort of put at the forefront the need to have this peace project, this ramp up of renewable energy. And in stark contrast, what the African ministers called for was a reversal of the policy in place for all MDBs at the moment that they. Will not finance upstream oil and gas. And so you have a completely different view of what the role of multilateral finance is. Now, given who the shareholders are and the owners are, and given their commitment to aggressive targets by 2030 in net zero by 2050, I'm not sure that African coal will land on fertile ground, but also from a multilateral development finance perspective, they should be doing more. They should be doing a lot more, but they should be doing a lot more to help countries, you know, grow green. There's no economics that supports the reverse of that.

Christiana: [00:30:57] Rachel, this statement from the African ministers is your sense that this stems from any kind of, I don't know, allegiance to the incumbent fuels because the new ones are still unknown? Or is it really deeper than that, which is poverty and energy access?

Rachel Kyte: [00:31:26] Well, I think that's actually a really great question to ask many of our African colleagues, because that obviously has to be a rigorous public debate in each African country about its own energy future. And you see that there's no unanimity here. I mean, there's an extraordinary op-ed by Vanessa Nakate in Al Jazeera on the weekend.

Christiana: [00:31:51] A brilliant, brilliant op-ed.

Rachel Kyte: [00:31:54] Laying it all out from the perspective of a young African who you know has watched the generations before her not do very well as a result of oil economies. And the work that I used to do is very clear that in the countries that had the greatest oil wealth or gas wealth, the energy access rates were no higher if you looked at some of these countries. And so the idea that a fossil fuel economy, ergo, means energy access, ergo means eradication of poverty has just not been the experience anywhere in the world and not in Africa either.

Christiana: [00:32:39] Quite, quite to the contrary, because they actually concentrate right there, usually in few hands. It concentrates it opens up for a lot of, I'm not sure how to say it poor, finagling definitely does not have the distribution of income or distribution of well being factor and effect that one would hope.

Rachel Kyte: [00:33:07] No, it doesn't. And then of course, the environmental impacts have been tremendous. And, you know, this is a major concern now in Uganda, where, you know, the beginning of a new oil field really threatens the natural resources in the north of the country. But, you know, as somebody who's, you know, somebody who's European, somebody who's British, we have to recognize that, you know, Africa arrives at this moment in time in the bind that it's in, because we we have we've turned our back on them. And we've benefited from colonial energy systems for a long time. It's a question of, two bads don't make a right. It's a question of, you know, now we know what we know. Where are we going to put our investment? And the responsibility of people like me is to is to work as hard as ever to try to get the global north, the West, to to make that investment, to make that investment in the possibility of Vanessa and her generation being able to breathe clean air, being able to have reliable energy, therefore being able to set up a new business, therefore being able to have a health clinic that can be, you know, effective, ready for the next pandemic. I mean, this is basic justice. This is human rights. Yes, it's energy policy as well. But it's all of the above.

Christiana: [00:34:33] Absolutely. Well, Rachel, I am very sad to look at the clock and know that I have to let you go, but I will not let you go without asking our final question that we impose on every guest, and that is, especially with respect, Rachel, to clean energy access. We started talking about energy access, but we can clearly conclude that it is in Africa's wellbeing to have access to clean energy. So with respect to clean, cheap, reliable and financially supported energy for Africa, what is still outrageous to you and what are you most hopeful about?

Rachel Kyte: [00:35:26] It is outrageous to me that the fossil fuel industry would stride around any country, but especially a country where the energy access gap is as large as it is in many sub-Saharan African countries, and suggest hat they are the answer to energy poverty when they have not been the answer to energy poverty at any moment in their recent history. And to use the same talking points that the coal industry were using ten years ago, it's almost word for word. Peabody Coal had a campaign with the World Coal Association to suggest that coal was the answer to energy poverty about ten years ago. And almost word for word those are the talking points of the gas industry in many cases today. What gives me optimism is the extraordinary people who are out there with brilliant business models who should receive more investment. Connecting people to electricity every day. Giving people access to clean cooking fuels every day. And developing hyper efficient refrigerators and hyper efficient devices that can use very little energy. The people who are electrifying clinics and schools. Those are the people that give me hope because they are doing it in very difficult business, enabling environments, very difficult investment climates. But they're doing it. And if we just got behind them for not very much money, we could close the energy access gap.

Christiana: [00:37:05] Amen. Or, as my daughters say, a-women.

Rachel Kyte: [00:37:10] Yes. Many of them are women. A-women.

Christiana: [00:37:13] Many of them are women. Rachel, thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time before you dash it. Really appreciate it. I hope Costa Rica did what it needed to do for you and please come back. But above all, please stay the course because we need you to stay the course. Thank you so much

Rachel Kyte: [00:37:37] I'll always stay the course with you, Pura Vida.

Christiana: [00:37:42] Thanks.

Tom: [00:37:49] So I've got to say, I think I learned so much in that conversation between you and Rachel, Christiana. I thought it was incredibly insightful, very clear in its analysis of what the issues are and how we can move forward. I just love to hear any comments from both of you. Christiana, maybe you first. What did you leave that discussion with?

Christiana: [00:38:06] Well, actually, I left that discussion with anger, to be totally honest, because how is it possible how is it possible that the fossil fuel industry, because this is the only thing that I can possibly imagine, would have lobbied, brought arguments, whatever was being done, obviously never fronting themselves, but through other agents to convince African ministers of something that is frankly so innate. It is not their fault that they are asking for this because it makes a hell of a lot of sense. If you look at the situation that we're facing right now, fossil fuels, skyrocketing prices, of course, they want a part of the game. Now, here's why I'm so angry, because there are two arguments that what can bring for wanting to explore, drill for and use more fossil fuels from a domestic point of view, of course, they say, look, we need to continue our development. And hence it seems that gas seems to be the most promising fuel for that development. Really? Well, how come it wasn't in the past? Gas has been around for 50,000 years. Why has it not fueled the domestic energy matrix of these countries? Because it can't, as Rachel has already explained, because gas and coal and all of the fossil fuels are highly concentrated. They are not the kinds of fuels that can be used for distributed energy demand. So if they haven't solved the problem in the past, how come they're now miraculously claiming that they can solve the problem now? It is absolutely bonkers to argue that fossil fuels can be a solution to domestic energy supply. Then you have the other argument. No, maybe it's not for domestic energy. Maybe it's because we want to use these fuels for exports and use them as an income. Okay, but let's look at that. It'll take several years to build up the infrastructure, let alone drill, explore, extract natural gas, if they're not doing so now. This is not going to happen over the next 2 to 3 months. In fact, it won't even happen over the next two years. Meanwhile, international demand for fossil fuels is falling because we already know, accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we know that everyone is understanding that they need to become more energy independent. And so people are actually, countries are investing much more into their own domestic energy. So international demand for those fossil fuels is falling, meaning they will become stranded assets just two or three years from now. And then what? These African countries are going to be saddled with a debt because the exploitation of fossil fuels is not going to come as a grant. It'll be a loan. That's what they're asking. They're asking for the development banks to give them loans, to exploit fossil fuels. Then they're going to be saddled with a debt that they will not be able to pay because they won't be able to export these fossil fuels that no one wants anymore. How absolutely frankly cruel is that situation? It just makes me horribly angry. In case you haven't noticed, I'm really irate about it.

Paul: [00:41:45] I'm trying to work out a technology to turn your anger into energy because we could power the entire world with what I've just seen for those viewers who are listening, only the eyebrows fully deployed. And look, Christiana, you have a huge heart and that makes you into a great lioness. And the world hears you when you speak. Look, there are massively overstated projections for the potential of gas. And as you say, these threaten to burden the governments, African nations, national governments with wasted investments and unsustainable debt. Now, what's going on here? I was shocked, but not surprised when Rachel said that the coal talking points were being used again. And what's going on here is it's money on lobbying. Now, some people think that they've got a kind of duty to make a profit, but I think we need to recognise there is an evil profit duty. Some people feel they have a duty to be evil, to make a profit and maybe kill people. And that's not a duty to make a profit, that's just evil. And we have to recognise the profit duty when it causes you to be evil, it cancels out. No one has a fiduciary duty to be evil. You know, these powerful lobbying groups that are promoting gas, they will never acknowledge the risk of carbon border attacks adjustments in the future. They will never acknowledge that these investments will at some future point end up being useless, because that's not the lens that they're looking through the world. But we need to acknowledge in a mature and honest way that the oil and gas industry has massive political power and aspects of it are criminally irresponsible at this point. Evil.

Tom: [00:43:21] Yeah. And that evil nature of the fact that the transition is unfolding with momentum in many northern countries, and as a result of that, potentially some of the same companies are now finding another avenue for the lobbying and exploitation, which is increasingly vulnerable people, is the piece that really just pokes at that sense of injustice that you just explain so eloquently, Christiana. It's outrageous. And they're sort of left at the mercy of this lobbying and then then going to the international community to then try and borrow money against their future generation requirements, either from international development banks or, let's not forget, from increasingly from the Chinese as well, because the Chinese government is financing enormous amounts of development, which is another thing that makes them incredibly vulnerable. There's been recent reports that suggest that the Chinese are beginning to lose their appetite for financing some of this development, leaving them high and dry in the middle of infrastructure investment cycles. So, you know, this is a direction of travel that is going to compound the injustices of the past and ensure that the benefits that should be realised, that should equalize some of the terrible inequalities in society, are just going to be made worse in the next cycle. So I completely agree with how outrageous that is. I also think that some of the outrage should be directed towards the northern governments who said that they would help here and haven't.

Christiana: [00:44:52] Yes, indeed.

Tom: [00:44:53] Haven't done so, you know, because actually, if some of the pledges that were made in Glasgow and other times to say we will come forward with concessional finance and loans and other things to enable you to accelerate that transition that they haven't done, then actually that would be the way to mitigate this and it would give some moral standing to say you should do anything other than what these oil and gas lobbyists are telling you.

Christiana: [00:45:16] Yes, totally agree. Rachael said so herself.

Tom: [00:45:19] She said so exactly. That was the point that really landed.

Paul: [00:45:22] Her haunting words. She said, you know, there was the promise of finance and the finance did not come there. It was the promise of vaccines, the vaccines did not come. And the trust has been broken to some extent. But I think that we actually need to do a little bit more joining up. So the international ministries and the environment ministries need to collaborate essentially on global energy policy or a global energy strategy perhaps is a better name for it. And think of this as an international security issue, which it is. It's a great time, I actually think, for smart people to get into politics or to get into the renewables industry and push the lobbying. One of the things we don't realise is that when we go and buy a whole bunch of solar, for example, that typically will be manufactured often in China, and then we don't get lobbying dollars coming into our politics, whereas if we go and buy gas, then we get lobbying dollars coming into our politics. So we've got to recognise there's a kind of asymmetry here. We need really talented people to get into the renewables industry and talented individuals in the renewable industry and to push for the advantages and the investment and the and essentially the development support that the oil and gas industry is seeking now, particularly the gas industry that belongs to the renewables industry. And we need the best people to focus on getting that support.

Tom: [00:46:39] And where some of that momentum is coming from. I don't know about the lobbying piece, but Christiana I don’t know if you want to come in on that is, and this is some of the good news stories that are happening in the moment is they're actually coming from philanthropy. Right. So we saw this week Bloomberg Philanthropies came out with 232 million to look at energy transition in Africa. Hopefully, I'm sure that will be leveraged in a very smart way to make that more substantive. There's the new Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, which is a multi billion dollar fund that's been brought together by Rockefeller, IKEA and the Business Earth Fund in order to finance and leverage to support the energy transition. So these are some of the more innovative models. And it would be nice, though, to see governments pile in behind some of those things and actually increase the capital available.

Christiana: [00:47:19] That's the whole point. Right. The whole point of this philanthropic finance is actually to contribute to the blended finance, right. To take down some of the risk and attract much, much higher levels of finance, because we need the much higher levels of finance. It's just not going to be done on philanthropic wallets. But they can absorb some of the risk as well as some of the development. Banks can also absorb some of the risks. So urgent moment for blended finance.

Paul: [00:47:52] Blended finance and also, you know, aggregating this together because there may be a country risk here or country risk there, but when governments collaborate at scale in multiple countries, then that risk is mitigated and we can progress.

Tom: [00:48:04] Yeah. So those are the way forward. I mean, none of that's easy, right? But that's what's needed. And we've tried for a long time to get this right, but now we actually have to do it and we have to find the structures and the mechanisms and the financing models that actually facilitate this, because we now see the risk. Right, which is actually the side that has been holding us back for a long time, are still very active and they still have the potential to hold us back. Anything else either of you would like to add before we go to our music this week?

Paul: [00:48:32] Just one quick thought, another comment. But it was Rachel quoting Janet Yellen talking about, you know, this idea of producing onshore and then producing offshore, for example, renewable energy. And Yellen referring to Friends Shore. And it is true that we do need to think about the political security of our supply of critical technologies, particularly in renewable energy, you know, in storage and in some of these technologies, because this is a big thing that we're going to do. We're going to get ourselves off the oil and gas that's coming from regimes that we find unacceptable. And we need to do that with thinking about the security supply of our renewable technologies.

Tom: [00:49:12] Yeah. Christiana, you're still caught in your outrage, I think.

Christiana: [00:49:15] Yeah, I'm still quite yes, I'm still sitting here with a rock in my stomach, honestly. And yes, we all have the moral obligation to move toward solution space. And, you know, I really put my energy into that. But right now I'm just sitting with this rock in my stomach. I mean, it's just double trouble, right? It's double trouble. The African continent, as we know, is the most vulnerable continent to all kinds of climate impacts. And then on top of that, we increase emissions and we support them to increase their emissions, for God's sake. And then we saddle them with this unpayable debt. I mean, how, can we still call ourselves human to do something like that? It is so immoral. It is so immoral. It is so unfair. I'm sorry. I'm just.

Tom: [00:50:12] Now we're with you.

Christiana: [00:50:13] I'm pissed is the word. I'm just really pissed.

Paul: [00:50:17] Well, let's leave the last word with Vanessa Nakate and her incredibly powerful article in Al Jazeera. Link in the show notes.

Christiana: [00:50:23] What a brilliant article she had.

Paul: [00:50:25] Clay will put a link in the show notes.

Christiana: [00:50:27] Yes, please. It's a brilliant op-ed, Al Jazeera, and I think it was picked up by the FT as well.

Paul: [00:50:35] It was indeed. Yeah. No, what a great voice that we've had the privilege to have on the show. As Vanessa said, most of the climate finance that the world's richest countries have provided, the global south, is in the form of loans that pile on more debt. Half of external debt payments by lower income countries are to banks, hedge funds and asset managers who have also profited from funding fossil fuels on a massive scale.

Christiana: [00:50:58] Voila.

Tom: [00:50:59] Yeah, that’s it.

Christiana: [00:50:59] Read the article. It's a brilliant article. Yeah.

Tom: [00:51:04] Right. All right. Well, you know, we always try to run the gamut from Outrage + Optimism on this podcast, and we're definitely on the outrage side now, but we will tack our way back, and that's part of this process anyway. So do stay engaged with this issue. It is an incredibly important moment to ensure we get this right and there's inevitably things we can all do, starting with reading Vanessa Nakate’s article. And we will now leave you with some music as ever. And this week we have music from Carmody. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for being here with us this week and we will see you next week.

Paul: [00:51:34] Goodbye.

Christiana: [00:51:36] Bye.

Carmody: [00:51:38] Hi. My name is Carmody. I'm a songwriter from south east London. Mother was a late addition to my upcoming album, Imperfect Constellations. The record focuses on family and what we pass down to each other intergenerationally, even if we haven't directly experienced it. So it felt appropriate to write a song to the earth and to a wider community. I was reading a lot about climate change and feeling hopeless and frustrated by our inaction and also feeling like my efforts as an individual just weren't making enough of an impact. So I wrote this song as an apology to the Earth. I was really influenced by this quote from Bertolt Brecht, which is “In the dark times will there also be singing? Yes, there will be singing about the dark times”, and it kind of features towards the end, because I feel it encapsulates these moments of hope and light against this ever encroaching darkness. 

Mother by Carmody: [00:52:28] [Song plays]

Clay: [00:55:41] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. My name is Clay. I'm the producer of this podcast. And that amazing music that you just heard was Mother by Carmody. I've been streaming Carmody on Spotify this week. I'm a huge fan of these guitar tones on her latest EP. And as you heard in the track, she's a phenomenal guitar player. Her debut album, Imperfect Constellations, comes out on July 6th. But there are singles and a short EP that I mentioned just a second ago on Spotify that you can stream now. And if you are a Londoner, she is playing a show at Amazing Grace, which is just south of the London Bridge on May 31st. Tickets to that show in the description below. You should go, bring your friend and say that Clay sent you, because Carmody is a vibe like if you want to vibe on some low frequency wavelengths, you know, like chill out, hit cruise control, space out or zone in a bit. Carmody is your vibe. She's your vibe. Okay. I have been letting you know about the Environmental Music Prize, and I have a small announcement. Voting for the prize got extended through the end of this weekend until Sunday, May 22nd. And people have been voting like crazy this week. It went exponential. So you need to make sure that your vote counts. And if you're in Australia and listening to this on election day, which is Saturday, make it a double vote day. Vote for climate twice. Environmental Music Prize. Dotcom is where you go. Get your vote on. In? On? Get your vote on. By the way, to a person who lives in the United States, voting on a Saturday sounds amazing and like logical. Like, we're stuck in like 1845 over here in the States, voting on a Tuesday. A Tuesday. Costa Rica also votes on a weekend, too, in case you needed more reasons why it's the greatest place on earth. And speaking of Costa Rica, let me get back on track here. Thank you, Rachel Kyte, for zooming in from Costa Rica last night. For the podcast. Listeners, you can keep up with Rachel and all the happenings at the Fletcher School of Tufts University by checking the show notes. I've got links for you there. Thank you, Rachel. It was a pleasure to finally meet. Okay, those are my announcements for this week. Go vote, go listen to music. Go read Vanessa Nakate’s op-ed in Al Jazeera. Link in the show notes to that. Thank you so much for listening and it's really great to have you along with us. You can find us online at www.outrageandoptimism.org and @OutrageOptimism on social media. If you like this podcast, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. We read every single one, and I take a screenshot of ones with my name in it and I send them to my mom. I hope that you all have a great weekend and next week thank you for being patient with us, on posting the podcast on Friday instead of our normal Thursday. Hope it didn't mess you up too much next week. We'll be back on Thursday again. So hit, follow or subscribe. We'll see you then.


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