Africa Looks to Carbon Trading

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Africa is responsible for only a fraction of carbon emissions, but the continent’s governments want to be part of the solution. Those governments, along with investors, are meeting at the Africa Carbon Forum in Senegal this week. The forum was organized by the United Nations and the International Emissions Trading Association, with the goal of matching investors in search of carbon credits with clean-energy projects in developing countries.

There are lists of proposals on the table, such as a wind farm in Senegal and a solar-powered university in Nigeria. These projects may be able to convince investors to become more active in Africa. Several of the countries involved in the forum have struggled to convince investors of their value — infrastructure limitations have made businesses seeking a profit disinclined to invest. However, carbon credits have the potential to prove more valuable than monetary profits, and have different infrastructure needs.

Many African carbon offset projects are still at the planning stage. In an interview with the Otago Daily Times, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, said, "There are relatively few projects to limit the growth of emissions in Africa. … An event like this is an opportunity to change things."

Just last Wednesday, the World Bank reported that Africa is ideal for carbon offset projects and has the potential for huge growth. Considering that the carbon-trading markets in South America and Asia are becoming saturated, investors are increasingly more willing to consider opportunities in Africa. Projects planned for Senegal, Ivory Coast and Nigeria have already received a positive reception and there are far more to be considered.

In addition to the opportunity that exists to strengthen African economies with these projects, de Boer made the point that carbon trading provides African countries with an opportunity to meet the continent’s increasing demands for energy without contributing to climate change — and without repeating the mistakes that other countries made. "Although Africa is tiny in terms of its contributing to the problem, it can potentially make a huge contribution to the solution," said de Boer.

It does seem like an idea with potential. Investments in Africa remain riskier than other options, but with the ever-growing need for carbon credits, the risk could be worth the potential return. Increasing the number of foreign investors willing to do business in Africa seems like an opportunity for both social and economic gain, even beyond the obvious environmental benefit.

Photo by Flickr user Rogiro

John Gartner
John Gartner is a writer and analyst, and has been covering computer, internet, green transportation, alternative energy, clean technology and corporate sustainability for over 20 years, working in both editorial and reporter roles across a broad number of magazines, blogs and websites.

Prior to Matter Network, John started Wired.com’s Autopia auto blog in 2005, and worked as an editor and writer at Wired News, TechTV, TechWeb, and Windows Magazine. He has also written for numerous other publications including Inc.com, Environment News Service, REVENUE Magazine and MIT Technology Review. John is also a contributing blogger to Marketing Shift, a well renowned blog on marketing and branding trends.
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