Building African climate resilience through energy access 

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  • Power Up and over 60 coalition partners are campaigning for adaptation funding to increase access to green, affordable energy in Africa.
  • There are many examples of the positive impacts this can have on standards of living, education, employment prospects, healthcare and farming practices, as well as increasing resilience to climate change. 

This resilience is needed as changing weather patterns are already having major human and financial costs across the continent. Vulnerable people are experiencing more extreme weather, shifting patterns of rainfall and rising sea levels. In a recent example, Cyclone Freddy caused over 500 deaths and tens of thousands were left homeless after the storm ravaged Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. Scientists believe the cyclone has broken records for the longest-lasting storm of this type after it swept over the Indian Ocean. 

More than 3bn people already live in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to climate breakdown, a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has found, with half of the global population now experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. The IPCC also forecasts heavier rain and flooding as well as stronger cyclones in southeast Africa and Madagascar. In the years ahead, the costs are set to increase with likely falls in crop yields and the spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue fever to new regions. 

Understanding the ‘business case’ for using climate adaptation funding to increase energy access and resilience can help stakeholders, such as NGOs and others, communicate the concrete benefits to policymakers and potential funders. These include carbon emissions reduction levels, health and education improvements as well as job creation.  

The Power Up coalition is undertaking research to better understand and measure the contribution that clean energy sources can make to energy deprived and climate vulnerable groups.  

This includes work led by the Global Off-grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) to define climate resilience and adaptation for off-grid solar and to develop key impact pillars and metrics to assess the contribution of different energy solutions. This work will help to frame the campaign’s engagement with Multilateral Development Banks (MBDs), governments and private investors, and policy recommendations at UNFCCC meetings. 

Power Up’s research initiatives also draw on Practical Action’s recent use of the 3 ‘A’ Resilience Framework, originally developed by researchers at the Overseas Development Institute, to articulate how a broad range of energy uses – from household lighting to Climate Information Services – can build specific resilience capacities in response to climate hazards over different timescales. 

The framework breaks the concept of resilience down into three distinct but interconnected capacities -absorptive, anticipatory and adaptive – and being applicable to a number of resilience building activities,provides a useful starting point for understanding the relationship between energy access and climate change adaptation.  

Going forward, we aim to assess the contribution of a range of energy access solutions to climate change adaptation and resilience in specific community contexts. Building the evidence base for this topic will support the design of joint interventions and monitoring and evaluation tools and will help to develop a stronger case for the prioritization of energy access for adaptation by governments, financial institutions and other stakeholders.  

The coalition will be undertaking further research, with a range of key stakeholders, and convening a research roundtable to identify the priority areas for investigation to help African countries fund and plan energy access and climate adaptation projects together.  

Author: Tom Stevenson, Practical Action 

For more information about Practical Action’s research please visit their website.


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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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