Fostering Renewable Energy Access for Adaptation and Resilience Building in Africa (Bonn Climate Change Conference SB 58 Side Event)June 9th, 2023

Energy has always been discussed but people from the global south understand that energy is much more an adaptation issue than a mitigation issue. With more than 600 million people who do not have access to energy, we are saying energy is important in economic and social development as it is important in resilience. A renewables-based energy transition promises to deliver vast socio-economic benefits to countries across Africa, improving energy access, creating jobs, and boosting energy security. To realize these benefits, African countries have an opportunity to leapfrog fossil fuel technologies to a more sustainable, climate-friendly power strategy aligned with the Paris Agreement and low-carbon growth.


The objective of this side event was to highlight the strategic role of renewable energy in enhancing climate change adaptation and resilience in Africa, as well as the opportunities and challenges for scaling up renewable-based adaptation solutions across different communities and contexts.

Nexus between energy poverty and climate vulnerability

Dr Augustine B Njamnshi in his statement stated, the nexus between energy poverty and climate vulnerability has not been given sufficient attention in forums like this one. And that is unfortunate – because for millions of people in Africa and other countries in the global south, the inability to access energy for various uses weakens their adaptive capacities to the impacts of climate change by reinforcing other drivers of vulnerability such as poverty and inequality.

It is well known that climate change poses a serious threat to the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people in Africa, especially those who depend on agriculture, natural resources, and ecosystem services and these are the people who are the forefront of climate change. Climate change affects the availability and quality of water, which is essential for irrigation, livestock, and domestic use. It is altering the patterns and intensity of rainfall, leading to floods, droughts, and soil erosion. And we see across the region how climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of pests and diseases, which harm crops, animals, and human health. These impacts can reduce food security, income, and resilience of vulnerable communities in Africa.

Renewable energy access can play a key role in addressing these challenges. Unfortunately, millions in Africa lack access to this critical resource, which is energy.

Moreover, renewable energy access can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance adaptive capacity by diversifying income sources, improving social services, empowering women, and youth, and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship (UNDP, 2017).


Benefits of renewable energy:

  • Renewable energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change impacts, such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and sea level rise, that threaten the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people in the global south.
  • Renewable energy can enhance energy security and access, especially for rural and remote communities that lack reliable and affordable electricity from fossil fuels or centralized grids. This can improve social services, such as health, education, and communication, and foster economic development and poverty reduction.
  • Renewable energy can diversify energy sources and create local jobs and income opportunities, especially for women and youth, who often face barriers to employment and empowerment in traditional energy sectors. This can also reduce dependence on imported fuels and increase resilience to external shocks and price fluctuations.
  • Renewable energy can support community-based and participatory approaches to energy planning and management, which can strengthen local capacities, governance, and ownership of energy solutions. This can also foster social cohesion, trust, and collaboration among different stakeholders and groups.
  • Renewable energy can enable innovative and context-specific solutions that address the diverse needs and challenges of different regions and communities in the global south. For example, solar-powered irrigation systems can enhance food security and water efficiency in arid areas; wind turbines can provide electricity for coastal fishing villages; biogas digesters can produce clean cooking fuel from organic waste; micro-hydropower plants can supply power for mountainous regions; etc.

Moving from policy to implementations

Renewable energy primarily is key to sustainable development and livelihood in rural areas, global warming has created difficult but surmountable challenges and nature has provided enough resources which are smart and efficient and harnessing these resources is key to this extreme weather events.

Most countries in the global south do not have a clear-cut climate policy. Indigenous people particularly do not have access to policymakers, international cooperation, technology transfer, and access to information. It is important that these gaps be bridged, and government consider local communities in development strategies.

Mbuya Odemari stated; energy is a resource used to exploit other resources and energy is a prepositive for social and economic development, there is plenty of renewable in Africa especially wind and solar, but it is not exploited; It should be noted that Africa exploits only 2% of its renewable resources but has the potential to produce 200 times more than what is being exploited.

We need an actionable plan and not lip service to exploit energy delivery and infrastructure, the problem we face is that in Africa most of the people are in rural areas and electrification in these areas is a big problem because African countries are depending on central grid systems which is exceedingly difficult and expensive to reach the rural areas.


Collaborations between countries

There is need for collaboration between countries in the global south and north to support just transition and climate resilience based on renewable energy. The Rurality’s project was presented as an example of North-South collaboration focusing on enhancing climate-smart ecosystems, knowledge based rural expertise and training centers This transition should be inclusive and consider the indigenous people. It should leverage on;

  • Building digital collaboration platforms and citizen-led networks and
  • The expertise within the different networks across the global south.

Barriers that were mentioned include a lack of collaboration between different sectors, such as those in the energy and agriculture sectors.

In conclusion, renewable energy has multiple co-benefits for adaptation and resilience in Africa and other regions of the global south. However, achieving these benefits requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders: governments, businesses, civil society, and international partners. We need to mobilize finance, technology, policy, and capacity building to unlock the potential of renewable energy at scale and at an unprecedented pace. We need to ensure a just transition that leaves no one behind. And we need to act now, before it is too late.

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