Young activists should get into government to fight for clean energy for all

An employee of Salpha Energy unboxes a solar panel for home installation in Sagbo-Kodji community in Lagos
An employee of Salpha Energy unboxes a solar panel for home installation, Nigeria, photo: Reuters/Temilade Adelaja

Young climate activists eager to set the agenda on global warming and clean energy should seek government jobs to get failing climate goals back on track, Damilola Ogunbiyi, chief executive of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), said on Tuesday.

With the world falling behind on goals to bring clean, affordable energy to billions of people by 2030, “changing the minds of leaders has to happen inside and outside government”, Ogunbiyi said on the first day of a three-day online youth summit on achieving universal clean energy access.

Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations (UN) deputy secretary-general, said nearly 790 million people worldwide still lack access to any source of electricity, and 2.8 billion continue to risk their health by cooking with dirty fuels.

‘Most governments continue to build a polluting economy’
About a quarter of Africa’s health facilities also lack access to electricity – a major problem as health officials try to roll out coronavirus vaccines, many of which need refrigeration, Mohammed said at the summit.

Both rich and poor governments continue to pour too much cash into polluting fossil fuels that drive climate change, she said. “Most governments continue to build a polluting economy. This is unacceptable.”

Putting money into expanding the use of clean energy, could open up job possibilities for Africa’s huge number of young people, Ogunbiyi said.

Particularly important, she said, is providing “productive” levels of energy – not just enough to power lights and phones but to run job-creating businesses.

Solar panels for schools
Vanessa Nakate, a young climate activist from Uganda, said schools are usually eager to make the change to solar power and cleaner cooking methods, but often lack the cash for solar panels or batteries.

Bringing down prices and finding the means of financing the switch, is key to scaling up the use of clean energy systems in Africa, she said.

“People love a cheaper alternative, so making it more affordable is good,” she said, noting that once the systems are in place “in the long run it’s actually a cheaper option”.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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