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Energy transition and pollution emissions in developing countries: are renewable energies guilty?

Elvis Dze Achuo (University of Dschang, Dschang, Cameroon)
Nathanael Ojong (York University, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Development Issues

ISSN: 1446-8956

Article publication date: 4 July 2023

Issue publication date: 1 November 2023




This study aims to examine the effects of energy transition on pollution emissions in Africa. In addition, it explores the indirect channels through which energy consumption impacts environmental quality.


The study uses system Generalised Method of Moments approach for a panel of 51 developing African countries over the 1996–2020 period.


The results show that fossil fuel and renewable energy consumption increase pollution emissions. The environment-degrading effect of renewable energy in Africa is however counter-intuitive, though the results are robust across regional economic blocks and income groups except for upper-middle-income countries where energy consumption is environment enhancing. Moreover, the results show that the environmental impacts of non-renewable energy consumption are modulated through financial development and information and communication technology (ICT) adoption, leading to respective positive net effects of 0.04460796 and 0.07682873. This is up to respective policy thresholds of 203.265 and 137.105 of financial development and ICT adoption, respectively, when the positive net effects are nullified.

Practical implications

Contingent on the results, the study suggests the need for African countries to develop sound financial systems and encourage the use of green technologies, to ensure that energy transition effectively contributes to emissions reduction. Policymakers in Africa should also be aware of the critical levels of financial development and ICT, beyond which complementary policies are required for non-renewable energy consumption to maintain a negative impact on environmental degradation.


Firstly, extant studies on the nexus between energy transition and environmental degradation in Africa are very sparse. Therefore, this study fills the existing research gap by comprehensively examining the effects of energy transition on pollution emissions across 51 African economies. Additionally, besides accounting for the direct environmental effects of energy transition, the current study accounts for the indirect channels through which the environmental impacts of energy transition are modulated. Hence, this study provides critical thresholds for the policy modulating variables, which enlighten policymakers on the necessity of designing complementary policies once the modulating variables attain the established thresholds.



The authors thank the York University in general and particularly the Director and members of the Harriet Tubman Institute (HTI) for Research on Africa and its Diasporas, whose comments paved the way for the amelioration of the initial version of this work following the presentation of the paper on November 17 2022 during the Tubman Talks. Authors equally thank the anonymous referees and Editor of the International Journal of Development Issues for the useful comments that greatly contributed to improving the quality of this paper.


Achuo, E.D. and Ojong, N. (2023), "Energy transition and pollution emissions in developing countries: are renewable energies guilty?", International Journal of Development Issues, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 361-382.



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