September 22, 2021

China to stop coal build out in Africa: A victory for community resistance in Africa

From the 3rd African Coal Network Conference

 China to stop coal build out in Africa: A victory for community resistance in Africa 

Today, more than 120 African community organisations and non-government organisations meeting virtually for the 3rd African Coal Conference welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping’s statement that China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.

The meeting sees this as a victory for the thousands of community activists in Lamu, Kenya; Sengwa and Hwange, Zimbabwe; Ekumfi, Ghana; Senegal; San Pedro, Ivory Coast; Makhado, South Africa and the many other sites here and across the Global South who have challenged their governments and China, and said no to coal.  

The Conference has gathered from Monday, 20 September and is hearing testimonies of community organisers from more than 20 countries across Africa who are challenging coal.  The call is to stop coal and initiate a just transition in our communities and countries.

A just transition must be delivered via an open democracy where people can shape the future of their communities, cities and countries.  

The policy commitment by China addresses coal-fired power plants, which are the single largest force heating the planet to the point UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres yesterday termed warned of a “hellscape of temperature rises” – in part based on the record forest fires stretching from Siberia to Seattle – not to mention the extreme storms and flooding – that have occurred in the Northern Hemisphere’s most destructive summer.   

But we challenge President Xi to end support from all Chinese institutions – private, state, parastatal, finance, insurance, importers, or proxies etc – that keep Africa’s coal mines, plants and other infrastructure under construction or planned. The import of Chinese coal from Mozambique and South Africa has been increasing, as one example. The plans for the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone – initiated by Ning Yat Hoi who has been on the Interpol list for his corrupt dealings in Zimbabwe – are being pushed ahead at a breakneck speed and include a 1320MW coal-fired power plant.

We call on China to be a responsible partner in supporting a renewable phase in in Africa, especially one that will respond to the basic needs of people first instead of the continent’s big mining and smelting corporations. We insist that next-generation solar, wind, pumped-storage and tidal power be based upon democratically-run and socially-owned energy, rather than the extractivist, privatised character of the fossil fuel industry that has ruined so many parts of Africa and the world through its anti-democratic war on people and their environments.  

A just transition must mean that the commitment from China – and payments on its Climate Debt to Africa, just as all Western, BRICS and other mega-polluters owe us reparations – be action planned and implemented and watchdogged by all of our countries where there are strong official relationships with China. We now call on other governments and investors to follow and to ensure that urgent action is taken that will allow for real action on climate change, climate debt, and reparations that will speak to climate commitments that are equitable and take historical emissions into consideration. We call for strong, meaningful action – not so many of the “Net Zero” not-zero accounting gimmicks dependent upon bogus offsets, false solutions such as carbon capture and storage, and ultra-volatile carbon markets.

We also express our solidarity with Chinese communities affected by mining and burning coal. Just as in Africa, they suffer heavy pollution, severe health impacts and the destruction of local environments. And China itself is experiencing intensified climate impacts. These impacts are not, of course, confined to China. We therefore call on the Chinese government to follow its decision to end its support to coal projects abroad by initiating a just transition to end coal at home. 

We call, in short, for the survival of our and other species, and we do so insisting that there be climate and energy justice so no workers, communities and countries are left worse off.


For more information

Lorraine Chiponda

Africa Coal Coordinator

+263 7 72522018