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A just energy transition: consensus with civil society on oil and gas

During the recently concluded COP28 climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uganda launched an ambitious plan for the country’s energy sector.

This plan sets out a comprehensive pathway to meet economic growth and development objectives in a secure, affordable, and sustainable manner. With support from the International Energy Agency (IEA), implementing this plan would enable Uganda to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions in its energy sector by 2065.

According to the plan, Uganda must modernise and diversify its energy mix and promote efficient energy use across all sectors. This will support industrial growth, poverty reduction, and socio-economic transformation, ensuring a secure and affordable energy supply.

Additionally, it will help mitigate energy emissions in line with Uganda’s conditional climate commitments, aiming for a 20% reduction compared to baseline emissions in 2030, and position Uganda as an energy hub for the East African region.

However, achieving these goals requires significant investment in oil and gas projects. Revenue generated from petroleum resources will provide the necessary purchasing power to acquire clean energy and low-carbon technologies, ultimately leading Uganda to net-zero emissions.

Prior to the 2nd Civil Society National Conference held on June 18, 2024, in Kampala, debates between Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) interested in oil and gas developments and industry players had been contentious, with both sides failing to agree on the approaches for the Energy Transition implementation plan. Many CSOs felt sidelined by the government and demanded their voices be heard, while others
relied on misinformation and disinformation.

Key among their demands was clarity on the government’s and industry players’ actions to achieve these milestones and how the dividends from petroleum resources would be used. After discourse between the CSOs, government, and industry players, a consensus was reached.

All parties acknowledged the need to work towards a common goal, chart their own path, and resist pressure from the Global North to abandon the development of Uganda’s natural resources, which are crucial for economic growth and the adoption of clean energy technologies, currently unaffordable for most Ugandans and Africans.

A just energy transition requires all efforts to defend and promote Uganda’s position, shared by many in the Global South, who are energy- poor and contribute minimally to greenhouse gas emissions but are most impacted by climate catastrophes. It also demands for “First in – First out” requiring the historical emitters to transition out first, before New Producers.

The rapid population growth in Uganda necessitates accelerated development to improve citizens’ lives. The Petroleum Fund, managed under the amended Public Finance Management Act, 2013, will play a crucial role in funding clean renewable energies and financing the development of critical minerals needed for energy transitions, aiming for universal access to clean energy by 2030 and net-zero by 2060.

As the demand for “Black Gold” expected to peak in 2050, the need to sustainably develop Uganda’s petroleum resources is more pressing than ever.

Just as one of Africa’s influential oil luminaries, NJ Ayuk, famously says, “drill, baby, drill,” achieving a Just Energy Transition requires us all to speak with one voice.

Ali Ssekatawa is the Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda

corporateaffairs@pau.go.ug

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