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Our guest on this episode of the Climate Justice Central Podcast is Fadhel Kaboub, an economist from Tunisia, professor at Denison University, Ohio (on leave), and currently working with Power Shift Africa to focus on climate and development policy work across the continent.

Citing the recent UN Production Gap Report, Kaboub says:

"We are currently on track to extract and burn more than twice the amount of fossil fuels that we're allowed to extract and burn by 2030. And as you know, 2030 on the climate clock, that's the day after tomorrow."

His message is clear: we need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure now. This is the goal of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.

"It is a global initiative that calls on sovereign governments to sit down and negotiate (...) a rapid phase-out with a just transition. And the good news is that the initiative is gaining momentum from civil society, with thousands of organizations from around the world, hundreds of Nobel Laureates, scientists, faith leaders, and cities around the world."

The responsibility of wealthier nations

Kaboub insists that the burden of climate change should not fall on Africa.

"It's primarily the historical polluters in the global north who have exceeded their carbon budget and are actually running a climate debt. It is the responsibility of the historical polluters to pay and help pay for the transition."

He challenges the narrative that fossil fuels are the key to Africa's development. "We should not choose a path of entrapment.” He points to Nigeria as an example of why relying on fossil fuels doesn't work: "If the fossil fuel industry was the source of development, Nigeria would be an economic powerhouse.”

The role of civil society and African governments 

Kaboub praises civil society for its awareness and action, but notes a disconnect with African leaders. He observes, "Civil society is ... pushing in the right direction," but stresses that more needs to be done, especially at international platforms like COP 28.

"Unfortunately, governments in the Global South have been pressured not to put these demands on the table in a more serious way, and have been pushed into a situation where they have to accept financial crumbs from the Global North."

Kaboub criticizes current climate finance models as inadequate: "There's no room for grants, there's no room for reparations, there's no room for paying climate debt. These things have been taken off the table, and that is unacceptable from a global perspective, that should be unacceptable from a global South perspective."

Kaboub also warns of a new form of colonialism, where Africa's renewable energy benefits Europe more than Africa itself. The vast majority of renewable energy infrastructure is not there to produce electricity to be used for Africa's development, but rather to export that green electricity to Europe, he says.

This article is part of our current reporting project "Dismantling the Fossil Fuel Industry".