By Okwi John Peter
The struggle to strike a balance between environmental concerns and economic growth remains a problem for developing nations as the world comes to understand the urgent need to switch to cleaner energy sources.
Uganda, a nation abundant in natural resources, is in a special position to show how cleaner energy and a strong economy can coexist.
One of the countries in East Africa where significant oil finds have been made is Uganda. Although it is thought that this will provide a chance for economic expansion and development, it has also come with significant risks and difficulties related to climate change, as well as rising debts brought on by the expansion of the oil industry.
According to reports, Uganda’s debt has been steadily increasing over the past few years, with government investments in the oil and gas industry playing a significant part.
The country owed about $17 billion in debt as of 2021, with a large portion of that amount going toward financing pipeline construction and other infrastructure projects. If the nation’s assumption of cushioning debt burden through oil does not materialize by 2025, the country will be left with a massive debt burden, serious climate change impacts, colossal deterioration of Environmental Quality, and economic recovery struggles.
As a signatory to the Paris Convention, Uganda should rise to the occasion and make its investment choices in line with the 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit and net zero emission goals.
Solar energy is one of the nation’s promising renewable energy sources. Uganda has significant solar potential, receiving an average of 5.1 peak sun hours per day. Uganda can diversify its energy sources and lessen its reliance on hydroelectric power by investing in solar energy infrastructure.
In Uganda, switching to cleaner energy sources has a number of notable advantages.
First of all, it lessens greenhouse gas emissions, aiding in efforts to combat climate change on a global scale. In light of the nation’s commitment to lowering its emissions as part of the Paris Agreement, this is essential.
The second benefit is an improvement in air quality, as burning fossil fuels for electricity causes the release of pollutants that are bad for human health.
Uganda can lessen the harmful effects of air pollution on human health by switching to cleaner energy sources.
In a recent study on renewable energy, Stanford University researchers Mark Jason and colleagues asserted that switching to renewable energy would cost $62 trillion and take six years to pay for itself. With this change, utility blackouts would be avoided, and consumers would save trillions of dollars.
Additionally, Uganda’s economy can grow by making investments in cleaner energy. The industry for renewable energy has been hailed as a potential catalyst for job growth and economic expansion. Uganda can generate employment in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance sectors by establishing a strong solar energy sector.
The development of other economic sectors can also be aided by investments in solar power projects, which can also draw foreign direct investment.
The switch to cleaner energy in Uganda still faces obstacles, though. Some of the obstacles that need to be overcome include limited access to financing, high upfront costs of renewable energy projects, and inadequate infrastructure.
To encourage private investment in the field of renewable energy, the government must establish clear policies and incentives. The transition to clean energy in Uganda can be greatly aided by international collaboration and partnerships.
The adoption of renewable energy in Uganda has the potential to lead the region. The nation can increase its energy security, lessen its carbon footprint, and safeguard its citizens’ health by adopting cleaner energy sources like solar power.
Furthermore, the transition to renewable energy may open up fresh prospects for prosperity and economic growth. Uganda can show that a cleaner energy future and a sound economy can coexist if the appropriate policies, investments, and international support are made.
I urge Uganda to demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability by signing the Glasgow statement in light of the urgency with which the country must deal with the climate crisis.
The statement urges governments and public financial institutions, such as development banks and export credit agencies, to align their support for a clean transition and away from unabated fossil fuels in favour of a more sustainable and greener economy with that of the global public.
Okwi John Peter works with Environment Governance Institute – Uganda