Monday, 22 April 2013

Renewable energies - new prospects or risks of conflict?

On Monday, 22 April 2013, the Bonn International Center for Conversion, in cooperation with AfricAvenir and the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), conducted a roundtable discussion on "Renewable Energies – new prospects or risks of conflicts?".

The Energy Transition in Germany (“Energiewende”) and the promotion of renewable energies in Europe more generally imply the use of (additional) material resources. For instance, the production of solar panels is based on copper, bauxite, zinc, lithium, rare earth metals and other minerals. Increasingly, these minerals are extracted from the earth outside of Europe – in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The production of biofuels is associated with enormous land investments to grow wood or crops. One of the concerned developing countries is Liberia, from where Vattenfall imported 100,000 tons of Liberian wood for electricity and heat production in 2011 and stopped importation in 2012 only for economic reasons.

The roundtable discussed the consequences of the energy transition in Europe for the African continent. Who is affected by the demand for raw materials meant for renewable energy production in the sourcing countries? What are the wider social, ecological and economic ramifications? Does the energy transition give rise to new conflicts in the producing areas? Who should bear responsibilities?

The roundtable was organized in the framework of the project „Paradoxes of Sustainability—how socially responsible are green technologies?”, initiated by AfricAvenir International e.V.. African experts were invited to Germany in 2012 to discuss the ramifications of the Energy Transition in Germany on their continent and contributed to a policy paper by AfricAvenir. The three panellists commented on the recommendations about what is needed to make Europe’s energy transition fair for Africa: 

·         Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor,  a Liberian social justice and environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for outstanding environmental achievements in Africa (2006), discussed the case of logging in Liberia for “green” energy production in Germany. 

·         Michael Brüntrup (DIE) presented “The socio-economic consequences of large-scale land acquisitions for bio fuels” in Africa and discussed challenges for and (im)possibilities of local, national and international regulation. 

·         Marie Müller (BICC) provided a broader picture about “Dimensions of conflicts surrounding mineral resources for renewable energies”. What kind of conflicts do typically occur around the exploitation of mineral resources?

Summary of the discussion (pdf)

Audio recording (mp3)