He knew the proposed plant’s wastewater, ash pit and mercury emissions posed severe well being and environmental dangers to the native fishing and farming communities. Entry to wash ingesting water was beneath menace from the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions and related acid rain, and there would have been a transparent affect on the regional local weather.
Ezekiel, who’s from the capital, Accra, was already the founding father of an NGO targeted on good environmental governance and began what grew to become a profitable grassroots youth motion to cease the development of the $1.5 billion plant, which included a delivery port to usher in coal.
He ran a social media marketing campaign emphasizing the threats of the proposed plans to the atmosphere and native communities, detailing the attainable long-term job creation that may include a shift to renewable vitality.
“If the world is attempting to maneuver away from environmental destruction due to the fossil gas, then Africa should not be seen as perpetuating that period,” mentioned Ezekiel over a webcall.
He was awarded the celebrated Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa on November 30, which honors the achievements and management of grassroots environmental activists.
Ezekiel’s victory is however one in every of many battles raging throughout the continent between activists, Chinese language corporations and African governments.
Regardless of the reputational danger, Chinese language corporations have continued to finance the development of coal vegetation, drawing ire from environmental activists, whereas African leaders are selecting fast repair options to affect their international locations.
China’s soiled belt and street
“Coal has no place in Covid-19 restoration plans,” he mentioned by way of video hyperlink throughout a web-based summit hosted by the Worldwide Power Company (IEA).
However regardless of these guarantees to part out soiled, high-carbon tasks at residence and overseas, Chinese language banks and corporations are nonetheless financing seven coal vegetation in Africa just like the one deliberate for the Ekumfi district, with 13 extra within the pipeline, principally south of the Sahara.
It was the China-Africa Growth fund that was imagined to finance the coal energy plant in Ghana, a non-public fairness fund completely backed by China Growth Financial institution, a state authorities coverage financial institution.
Since 2000 the China Growth Financial institution and the Export-Import Financial institution of China alone have provided $6.5 billion of finance for coal tasks in Africa, in response to the Boston College International Growth Coverage Middle. China has a quickly growing economic system with many sectors depending on fossil fuels and it presently contributes 26% of world carbon emissions, in response to the Inexperienced Belt and Street Initiative Middle (Inexperienced-BRI).
African governments have been glad to push forward with soiled vitality tasks that solely the Chinese language will finance. The potential of a reliable vitality infrastructure fueled by low-cost coal is engaging for a rustic like Zimbabwe, given the vitality deficits slowing financial development. The nation has a nationwide energy demand starting from 2,200-2,400 megawatts however solely offers about 1,300, in response to the Centre for Pure Sources Governance (CNRG).
Power shortages and energy cuts are commonplace in Ghana, exacerbated by drought circumstances due to the nation’s dependency on hydro-electricity. Its vitality disaster left it weak to vitality builders and overseas funding earlier than Ezekiel intervened.
Like different international locations investing in Africa, China additionally guarantees jobs, whereas benefiting from lax insurance policies and cheaper building prices. Many governments select to satisfy the demand for vitality at the price of a clear atmosphere.
That is regardless of each African nation having ratified the Paris Settlement, aside from Angola, Libya, South Sudan and Eritrea.
“Coverage on renewable tasks is weak or non-existent in Africa,” mentioned Han Chen, the supervisor of worldwide vitality coverage on the New York-based Pure Sources Protection Council, a non-profit worldwide environmental advocacy group. “In China, environmental requirements are fairly excessive, whereas South Africa or Kenya, for instance, have vitality insurance policies that make it simpler for traders to become involved.”
If present plans go forward, the Chinese language-backed coal energy output in Africa presently being financed might treble by the point the nation realizes its aim of carbon neutrality in 2060, in response to International Power Monitor.
The Chinese language Ministry of International Affairs didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Activism throughout the continent
Ezekiel is just not alone in preventing for an Africa targeted on renewable vitality.
It can obtain monetary help from the development firm China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC), and nation danger insurance coverage prices are more likely to be coated by the China Export & Credit score Insurance coverage Company (Sinosure) and the Industrial and Business Financial institution of China (ICBC), in response to International Power Monitor.
ZELA says the venture is shrouded in secrecy and RioZim has not supplied data on the environmental or socio-economic impacts of the plant.
When contacted for remark, RioZim replied that “any media engagements are strictly prohibited” beneath the availability of their “non-disclosure agreements.”
South Africa’s $10 billion, 3,000-megawatt Musina-Makhado energy station can be financed by Chinese language corporations, each state-owned and personal, with PowerChina alone contributing $4.5 billion, in response to a memorandum of settlement signed in July 2018.
It’s a part of the proposed Musina-Makhado Particular Financial Zone (SEZ) within the Limpopo province north of Pretoria, a mega industrial hub which can span greater than 6,000 hectares.
A pre-feasibility examine carried out by UK engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald mentioned direct impacts of the location the place the coal plant can be positioned embody “detrimental impact on the biodiversity belongings of the area,” “disruption of ecological functioning and air pollution of water assets” and “large-scale land transformation.” There can be a “particular” launch of “vital” greenhouse emissions, in response to a preliminary affect evaluation.
“The nation cannot afford to be locking in to a massively polluting, costly and carbon-intensive mega venture at a time when — greater than ever — we have to act in opposition to the local weather disaster, shield the resilience of weak, water scarce areas and protect our restricted state funds and assets for tasks with optimistic outcomes and advantages for all,” mentioned Michelle Koyama, an lawyer at Cape City’s non-profit Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).
The Limpopo Provincial Authorities, PowerChina and the Chinese language embassy in South Africa didn’t reply to requests for remark.
East of Pretoria, Kusile Energy Station is being constructed with $2.5 billion from China Growth Financial institution and sponsorship from Eskom, South Africa’s largest polluter.
The South African atmosphere division launched a legal investigation in opposition to the electrical public utility firm in Might 2019 over air high quality considerations at its Kendal Energy Station.
Eskom confirmed to CNN that it has been summoned to look in entrance of a regional court docket to reply to legal costs associated to the Kendal plant. These embody exceeding the emissions restrict on air pollution and supplying false or deceptive data to an air high quality officer.
Fossil gas advocates argue that the vitality supplied by the vegetation is significant for improvement, however centralized coal has did not ship electrical energy to over 2.5 million households in South Africa and might be pricey, in response to Greenpeace.
“Regardless of the federal government promising to offer the individuals of South Africa with inexpensive electrical energy, lots of them can not afford Eskom’s coal-powered electrical energy — the prices of which proceed to escalate,” mentioned Koyama. “Paradoxically the identical communities who dwell subsequent door to those coal vegetation, and need to endure their impacts day by day, do not need dependable, inexpensive electrical energy of their properties.”
No coal plant brings well being advantages and Chinese language corporations usually are not alone in receiving criticism for financing their building.
“Coal investments include loads of human rights violations,” Nqobizitha Ndlovu, a constitutional and human rights lawyer who’s the authorized adviser to ZELA, instructed CNN in a telephone dialog. “There are loads of complaints right here in Zimbabwe, and throughout all of Africa, that these tasks don’t respect the proper to be wholesome, to have a secure and clear atmosphere or the proper to water.”
When requested whether or not they would reevaluate their relationship with Eskom in mild of the legal costs, Deutsche Financial institution, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase declined to remark.
Nonetheless whereas western corporations have pulled again from funding in coal vegetation, Chinese language plans are nonetheless forging forward.
“You are locking loads of international locations right into a coal-dependent pathway and the air pollution might be horrendous,” mentioned Chen.
A inexperienced future
After seeing his 2016 marketing campaign empower communities, Ezekiel is hopeful. He spent 4 days talking with chiefs, elders, fishermen and different native teams in Ekumfi, explaining the positives of renewable vitality, particularly the chances for long-term employment.
“We agree that there are people who find themselves unemployed and that jobs are essential,” mentioned Ezekiel. “However we consider that there is a higher various within the space of renewable vitality which ensures employment not just for the quick time period, however for a very long time.”
Chen agrees, saying there was “pushback” from communities. “There’s generally a disconnect between a nationwide bilateral settlement and what these on the bottom really need,” he mentioned.
Ezekiel launched the Youngsters for Local weather Motion (C4C) initiative to contain kids (in addition to younger individuals) within the struggle in opposition to local weather change and the no coal debate. As a nationwide coordinator of 350 Ghana Decreasing our Carbon (350 G-ROC), Ezekiel can be encouraging different African international locations (significantly Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria) to withstand overseas funding in coal.
“An enormous mobilization of younger individuals is required to create extra public consciousness and schooling, however we should present abilities and amenities for the youth to be employed, so we are able to reveal that vitality certainly offers extra job alternatives,” Ezekiel mentioned.
The pan-African activism has had some success and in recent times coal tasks have been shelved in Nigeria, Mozambique and Botswana, amongst others.
CER has efficiently stopped the development of a proposed 557-megawatt plant at Thabametsi alongside environmental organizations Earthlife and Groundwork. It’s difficult the environmental authorization for one more at Khanyisa, the place a water-use licence has already been rescinded.
On the intercontinental stage, Ezekiel is inspired by the election of Joe Biden as the following president of the US.
“I’d say it’s a victory not just for the US, however for the world as a complete,” he mentioned. “He has made feedback to the impact that he’s ready to place America again into the Paris settlement. That is a really huge plus.”
China has really turn into the most important inexperienced finance market, with about 11 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) in inexperienced credit score and about 1 trillion yuan ($150 billion) in inexperienced bonds, in response to Inexperienced-BRI. Rising this market has helped management the air pollution and ecological injury ensuing from 40 years of utmost financial development.
In the end coal is a fading trade and China is nearly alone in financing coal energy in Africa. As banks in different international locations proceed to snub the gas, it is doubtless that Chinese language cash will construct the final ever coal plant.
If the financial behemoth desires to take its dedication to preventing world warming critically, it must cease financing coal vegetation abroad. For Ezekiel and different activists, the struggle is popping of their favor.