GE's withdrawal from coal is a step towards a new fossil free era

By Omar Elmawi and Landry Ninteretse*

General Electric (GE), one of the world's largest makers of coal-fired power plants recently announced the company’s intentions to not build any new coal plants. Would this be signaling the final stroke for numerous coal projects across Asia and Africa? 

In its statement, GE was categorical to say that it will “continue to focus on and invest in its core renewable energy and power generation businesses, working to make electricity more affordable, reliable, accessible, and sustainable.” However, the exit plan and timeline for existing nuclear and coal power plants are not fully clear as GE has indicated its intention to continue working with customers on existing obligations as it pursues this exit. 

This could set the precedent for continued work on projects such as the highly contentious 1,050-megawatt Lamu coal-fired power plant, which GE agreed to design, construct and maintain in May 2018, along with Amu Power. Estimated at $2 billion, the cost of the power plant is by no means negligible. That said, there is still a long way for GE to ensure that the company fully exits the 17 coal power stations it is trying to equip worldwide.

Towards the cancellation of the Lamu project?

The withdrawal of GE represents a blow to Amu power, which has refused to comment on the decision. It comes less than a year after the African Development Bank (AfDB) indicated that it will not fund the coal-fired power plant project in Kenya and that it is withdrawing from financing any coal project on the content. It also comes after this project was halted by a local environmental court, a decision which gave immense hope to the communities which have struggled for years to protect their livelihoods and the socio-cultural heritage of Lamu, a UNESCO heritage site.

GE had come under severe criticism in 2018 after revelations of its involvement in the construction of the Lamu coal plant. Local communities and groups sent a correspondence to the American company asking them to withdraw from the project unconditionally. In its response in February 2019, GE denied its involvement in the project, indicating that it has no ownership interest in the Lamu coal plant. This statement came amidst media reports quoting the CEO of Amu Power expressing his satisfaction at signing a cooperation agreement with GE on the Lamu power facility.

This lack of transparency and continued support of fossil fuel projects saw GE facing mounting pressure from investors and environmental watchdogs to switch to more environmentally sustainable projects. Earlier this year, a coalition of 65 civil society groups from 16 countries where GE is expanding coal signed a letter requesting GE to get out of coal immediately. It was a strong sign that the people from countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mozambique, Turkey, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania have rejected GE’s rampant coal expansion estimated at 15GW of new coal power.

The potential of Renewable Energy gives a glimpse of the future

More and more financiers are increasingly skeptical of the idea of financing coal projects, especially in Africa and Asia. Last week, The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private-sector arm which owns equity stakes in many large commercial banks in emerging markets, introduced new climate change conditions for its investments in commercial banks to encourage the lenders to wind down support for coal projects in African, South Asian and South American countries. 

This growing ecological awareness and increased moral responsibility among the banking community has led to the upcoming Finance in Common (FIC) Summit, which will bring together for the first time 450 Public Development Banks and Development Finance Institutions from around the world to discuss the alignment of its policies with climate and sustainable development goals. It is hoped that this Summit will finally put people and the planet at the centre of development by bringing greater scrutiny to fossil fuel financing across the world. Civil society from all over the globe is keen to see a joint declaration that puts more restrictions to finance for coal, oil and gas.

GE’s announcement is a step in the right direction but a lot more needs to be done to ensure that the company is firmly on a low-carbon trajectory. GE has the potential to lead the way in renewable energy technology development, and last year’s launch of the world’s largest wind turbine Haliade-X is a demonstration of this potential. However, GE needs to listen to concerns from investors, scientists, climate experts and society, and completely dump its fossil fuel past, focusing on a more just, greener and cleaner future we all deserve.

*Omar Elmawi is the Campaign Coordinator for deCOALonize in Lamu, Kenya and Landry Ninteretse is the Africa Team Leader of 


As climate talks start in Madrid, a people-centered vision for a fossil-free Africa is gaining ground

The climate crisis has been dominating the mainstream media lately. Every week, we hear about climate-related disasters hitting different regions across the world. At the same time scientists keep sounding the alarm about our diminishing ability to rein in the worst of climate change, activists keep protesting against climate inaction and corporations continue violating human rights.   

As the UN and global leaders discuss climate change issues at COP25 - that is the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid, Spain, Africans are rising in ever-growing numbers to resist the fossil fuels industry and champion adapted and affordable climate solutions. Across Africa, civil society groups and local groups are fiercely working towards setting Africa free from coal, oil and gas dependency. Citizens and communities from Lamu (Kenya) to Bargny (Senegal) to Virunga (Democratic Republic of Congo) to San Pedro (Ivory Coast) and Mpumalanga (South Africa) are standing against big fossil fuel companies that are exacerbating the impacts of climate change. These struggles have felt the need to unite and work closely together under the AfrikaVuka platform to achieve greater results and impact. They deserve recognition, support and solidarity.

We cannot stand and watch our lives, economies, ecosystems and resources being put at risk without speaking out. We refuse to accept that our continent, vulnerable and already severely impacted by the effects of climate change, should become the dumping ground of a dying industry. We denounce and reject the rhetoric that coal companies bring  ‘development’ and demand greater and active participation in the discussions on future energy choices. For millions of Africans, climate change continues to worsen inequalities at different levels. Supporting people affected irreversibly by climate change, strengthening adaptation mechanisms and addressing the issue of loss and damage are among other core issues being discussed in Madrid, issues which are the central parts of the Paris Agreement.

Four years ago, the Paris climate agreement was signed at COP21. It wasn’t a perfect agreement, but it was the best we’ve managed to get so far, and one that, if fully implemented, would give us a good chance to avoid the worst-case scenarios on the climate crisis. That agreement set a target to reduce global temperatures well below 2C and aiming for 1.5C. Since then, scientists produced a wealth of increasingly concerning reports and studies confirming how only keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5C we will be able to avoid mass die-off of species, destruction of ecosystems and livelihoods and massive migrations as people are forced to flee their homes to seek refuge elsewhere.

Yet, national governments and other powerful actors have failed so far to deliver the sweeping policies and courageous decisions that would stop the world from burning up even further than it has so far. Emissions keep rising, investments in fossil fuels continue and the most vulnerable among us become more and more so by the minute. There are many reasons why this is happening, many reasons why governments are not acting according to what science dictates and what the people need. Apart from COP21, all other climate talks have often been characterised by hypocrisy, greed, empty promises and procrastination, with big polluters deliberately delaying and sabotaging any significant climate action. The influence of the fossil fuel lobby on our governments and on the climate talks themselves has made it so that real progress has been so far stalled, all to allow a few large corporations and national elites to prosper at the expense of everyone else. 

We say “no more”

As the climate crisis escalates, African decision-makers must heed the call of the people and urgently take action by focusing on solutions that eliminate fossil fuels and transition to clean and sustainable energy. At the village, city, district and county levels, people are coming together to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. Unions, faith groups and non-environmental groups are joining them to build alternative people-centred solutions. With the continuous energy technology innovations making renewable energy more accessible and affordable, we believe that Africa can and must lead the way in this watershed moment in history, by addressing the climate crisis while creating a more just and equitable world and generating millions of new jobs for its growing youth population powered by technologically advanced renewable sources.

Regardless of the outcomes of the current climate talks in Madrid, the fight against climate change will not stop. It’s clear that a just and rapid transition away from fossil fuels is within reach, in Africa just as anywhere else. In fact, the way we deal with the climate crisis matters as much as how rapidly we act. We cannot expect the climate crisis to be meaningfully addressed unless those in power start taking into consideration other social justice issues such as extreme poverty, extraction, neo-colonialism, lack of freedom and inequality. We cannot see the climate crisis solved without putting at the center the very frontlines communities affected by recurrent floods, droughts, environmental destruction, hunger and forced displacement. COPs will continue to be a failure as long as the UN allows fossil fuel industry lobbyists to walk its halls and to influence complacent politicians not to take the strong action needed against what the UN secretary-general himself calls an “emergency”. 

Landry Ninteretse is the Regional Team Leader of

Organising for a new wave of people-powered campaigns in Africa

In February, the 350 Africa team brought together organisers and activists from across the continent for a 5-day workshop as part of the new regional campaigning platform - Afrika Vuka (coming soon!).


The main goal of this gathering was to strengthen the campaigning and organizing capacity of local organisers to run successful and impactful campaigns in their respective countries. On a continent where politicians and the extractive industry continue to spread ridiculous lies about the so-called benefits of fossil fuels, there’s a need to constantly re-strategize and ensure that our organisers are well trained and equipped to successfully challenge such devastating projects.

25 participants joined us. The following countries were represented: DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All of them are directly involved in ongoing campaigns and initiatives aiming at challenging coal mining, oil exploitation, extractive projects or championing alternative energy solutions.


During the first four days of the workshop, we presented Afrika Vuka, an upcoming campaigning platform connecting citizens, struggles and groups around the continent working to building a future that’s free from the destructive impacts of the fossil fuel industry. Five case studies from Kenya, Senegal, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Africa Climate Reality Project were shared to give an in-depth understanding of such campaigns in terms of recent developments, successes, challenges, next steps and how regional support and global amplification can boost such struggles.

Though the programme was rather packed, we managed to create open sessions to discuss some of the emerging themes, notably learnings from our past organising experiences and safety in organising, where we identified some of the common threats and risks experienced on the ground by participants.

Practical sessions on digital organising, storytelling, shifting the media narrative, building last relationships with reporters, planning and organising a successful day of action, research-based campaigning, engagement pyramid.

“Brainstorming, storytelling and interactive workshops were my favourite part to share experience and knowledge,” says Asmaa Hanafi, one of the participants from Egypt. “It was interesting to let each group present their success story to divest fossil fuels.”

We look forward to the upcoming moments as we continue to grow and consolidate the regional climate movement through #AfrikaVuka platform.

Sign up here for updates to hear when the new Afrika Vuka platform launches!

Break Free 2018 - Here's What Happened!

On Friday, people across Africa stepped up their commitment to keeping fossil fuels in the ground with courageous actions that have challenged business as usual across Africa.

Click here to see photos from Break Free actions that happened on Friday!

Lephalale, South Africa. Photo by Greenpeace Africa, Shayne Robinson, 25 May 2018

Break Free stood up to the proposed coal-fired station in Lamu, Kenya - told the Development Bank of Southern Africa to not fund Thabametsi, or any more coal projects in South Africa - reached out to communities in the Eastern region of Ghana (Dome, Asayansu, Kwesi Kunde, Fori) to promote and distribute renewable energy solutions.

With powerful actions involving people across the continent, Break Free from Fossil Fuels took the fight directly to the fossil fuel industry and showed just how powerful we can be when we act together.

Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

The only way we’ll defeat the fossil fuel industry, which is wrecking our climate is if we all come together to show it up for what it is: an immoral and dangerous industry that is at odds with a safe future.

Lamu, Kenya

As the planet becomes dangerously hot, our greatest collective hope is that this movement continues to grow in size, strength and boldness. Friday showed what we can accomplish together.

Abuja, Nigeria

In every country that took action on Friday -- Cote D’Ivoire, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Zambia, Senegal, Kenya, Togo, Uganda, Ghana -- organising against fossil fuels and for renewable energy will continue, stronger than ever.

Because people everywhere see the writing on the wall: the planet is heating up, renewable energy is becoming more affordable, and the fossil fuel industry is entering a financial crisis, the time has come to stand up to its power and pollution.

Bargny, Senegal

This movement will continue to grow in all of its forms: divesting from fossil fuels, blocking fossil fuel extraction and transportation, passing fracking bans, stopping new coal plants, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and securing commitments build a 100% renewable economy.

But our work does not end here. The need for a rapid transition to renewable energy has never been more urgent, and the way we get there is by continuing to organise, mobilise and campaign.

Even though Break Free 2018 is now over, you can get involved in climate campaigns and mobilisations by signing up to the platform mailing list, or getting involved in the global mobilisation, Rise for Climate.