Considering Africa is most vulnerable to past emissions yet its emissions are negligible, inclusion of adaption financing and a strong review mechanism to increase ambition over time is a vital highlight. Moreover, seeing as the continent is not locked in ‘carbon intensive growth models’ this deal is a probable win-win, providing an opportunity for sustainable industrial development with minimal or zero transition costs by leveraging opportunities in both adaptation and mitigation.
But this is not a given. The onus is on governments, the private sector, development partners, academia, and all of good will to actualize this win-win by prioritizing investments that leverage the Paris Agreement Framework.
Opening the door to innovative solutions
Despite the fact that Africa has a vast amount of renewable resources, energy poverty on the continent is high – over 60% or 621 million people have insufficient access to energy. The situation is even worse in rural areas, where 70% of Africa’s poor reside. Here, grid access is estimated at only 1% – 8%. This unavailability constricts inclusive development. To make matters worse, Africa’s poor, living on less than USD 2.50 a day, pay up to 20 times more (an estimated US$ 10 billion annually) on unclean sources for lighting than rich households connected to the grid. This further entrenches the poverty cycle.
However, a proposal out of Paris to mobilize resources in solar investment is an opportunity that governments in Africa can tap through relevant policy, while attracting sizeable investments to bridge this gap. Countries need to start by formulating policies that incentivize investment in off-grid and mini-grid clean energy solutions and to expand energy access to vulnerable poor rural communities, spur rural industry and create jobs without piling up carbon.
This should be done concurrently with policies to dis-incentivize over reliance in fossil fuels. It is worth noting that oil subsidies in Africa cost an estimated US$ 50 billion every year, and 65% of subsidies in Africa benefit the richest 40% of households. Considering that this amount equals 5.7% of Africa’s GDP and exceeds the regions spending on health, scrapping subsidies and redirecting funds to low carbon initiatives is a worthy policy move toward more economically inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies. Reversing this through investing in off-grid and mini-grid clean energy solutions, which are the most economical solution for electrification in remote area,s will improve household savings and create jobs, thus combating poverty while reducing emissions.
Creating wealth through clean energy
Globally, the renewable energy sector created 7.7million jobs in 2015, an 18% increase from 2014. In Africa, while this potential is yet to be fully unleashed, it is projected that the continent can create a thriving electricity supply industry with an estimated 2.5 million temporary and permanent jobs.
Solar energy, especially, presents Africa with the most opportunity. With abundant sunshine and over 50% of Africa’s population not connected to the grid, demand for solar home systems (SHS) to fill this gap is great. In meeting this demand, potential for job creation is immense, as demonstrated by Bangladesh (a member of the Least Developed Country groups), whose SHS sub-sector created in excess of 115,000 direct jobs and an additional 50,000 induced in downstream business due to availability of solar in rural areas. Africa can replicate this success by ensuring financial and technical support from government aligned to new business models.
Moreover, by making grid power and off-grid renewable options like solar more accessible to them, Africa’s poor households, which spend up to 20 times more on energy for lighting than high-income households connected to the grid, can make plausible savings of up to US$ 8 billion. Undoubtedly, switching to clean and accessible grid energy will vastly improve the lives of millions of people on the continent.
It is projected that leading up to 2040, Africa can potentially achieve a 27% reduction in C02 emissions with an up-scaled clean energy sector. The continent should therefore capitalize on clean energy to sustainably improve access to power and accrue socio-economic and environmental benefits to its people.
Optimize the agro-value chain to create wealth and combat poverty
The Paris Agreement expressed the need to restore degraded lands in Africa. Agriculture is not only a source of food but of livelihoods. The sector employs up to 64% of the population, 70% of Africa’s poor who reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture, and women produce up to 80% of the food. Investments to enhance productivity in this sector will ensure not only food security but inclusive growth, opportunity and poverty reduction.
Optimizing the agro-sector in Africa through applying Ecosystem Based Adaptation approaches (EBA) that enhance ecosystems is a potential solution to achieving climate adaptation without further escalating greenhouse gases. Embracing EBA for on-farm production can enhance yields by up to 128%, lower climate induced crop failure risks and enhance farmer incomes at lower environmental and financial cost. Forward and backward linkages of ecological approaches to supply and demand side value chains and value addition enterprises can create as many as 17 million jobs and catalyze an agro-sector projected to be worth US$ 1 trillion by 2030.
The World Bank reports that in Africa, a 10% increase in crop yields translates to approximately a 7% reduction in poverty. Growth in agriculture is at least two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than in other sectors.
An Opportunity Not to Miss
All told, the Paris Agreement presents an enormous opportunity to create and implement inspired strategies that utilize new approaches, technologies and foster unprecedented regional cooperation and idea sharing. The potential for lasting change is limitless. Let’s seize the moment and build on these ensuing opportunities! Our future depends on it.
Dr. Richard Munang is Africa Climate Change & Development Policy Expert. He tweets as @RichardMunang. Mr. Robert Mgendi is an Adaptation Policy Expert.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the institution with which they are affiliated.