Africa, while a small contributor to global warming, is a region disproportionately affected by the adverse consequences of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation efforts, which will need to be adequately financed, must also be supported by meaningful policy frameworks. This is crucial to enable a necessary scale-up of clean energy, with associated benefits for social, economic and environmental development, even beyond climate-change mitigation.
Access to clean energy through grid-connected and off-grid renewable electricity sources as well as cleaner cooking fuels and modern stoves could reduce emissions associated with deforestation and slash indoor air-pollution related deaths. It will bring electricity to 640 million people on the continent that currently lack such access. It can also ensure local job-creation and skill development. Furthermore it enables greater energy security by helping net-oil importing African nations cut down on expensive fossil-fuel imports and channel scarce resources to more productive use. Africa not surprisingly has just launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) at COP21 in Paris. With the aim of producing 300 GW of electricity for the continent by 2030, the initiative’s goals are to help achieve sustainable development, enhance well-being and sound economic development by ensuring universal access to sufficient amounts of clean, appropriate and affordable energy.
Trade-policy should be one of the supportive frameworks for the AREI and can play a positive role in the scale-up of grid and off-grid clean energy. While many countries aim to protect domestic industry, facilitating imports of clean energy technologies (CETs) could lower costs of access to technologies and thereby lower costs of access to energy and climate change mitigation.
This ICTSD panel discussion brought together industry experts, government trade and energy policy makers from the region as well as donor agencies and civil society organisations to discuss these questions and explore possible ways forward.