Energy and environment in Africa - the twin challenge of climate change mitigation and sustainable development

Essay 2008 18 Pages

African Studies


Table of contents


1. Introduction
1.1. Background: the Evidence of Climate Change
1.2. Africa’s energy consumption

2. Addressing the challenge of clean energy transformation
2.1. Energy as a key pillar for sustained economic growth
2.2. Low access to renewable energy in Africa
2.3. Financing gap in African energy provision
2.4. Renewable energy development potentials and barriers
2.5. Barriers to CDM finance
II.5.a. General lack of capacity and institution to create an enabling environment
II.5.b. Technical Barriers:
II.5.c. Financial Barriers
II.5.d. Legal Barriers
II.5.e. Gaps in the CDM Framework

3. Meeting the twin challenge: response by the international community
3.1. The Gleneagles dialogue
3.2. implementation of the Climate Investment Funds
3.3. Conclusions

4. Bibliography
4.1. Documents
4.2. Internet resources


Climate change has emerged as the most critical challenge to sustained global economic growth, social well-being, quality of life, and political stability in the 21st century. In the last two years, two landmark reports – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report,[1] and the Stern Review[2] – have provided highly persuasive empirical evidence, analytical explanations of observed trends, and simulation model projections drawing stronger cause-and-effect linkages between human socio-economic activities and greenhouse gases (GHGs), and between the latter and climate change.

1. Introduction

1.1. Background: the Evidence of Climate Change

The scientific evidence for the aforementioned atmospheric changes and its impacts is summarized in the Fourth Assessment Report (February 2007) issued by the IPCC and it concludes that:

- Increased emissions of GHGs since 1750 are almost certainly of human origin.
- Cumulative build-up of long-lived GHGs is the primary cause for observed increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice in the Arctic and on the peaks of the world’s highest mountains, changing patterns of precipitation in six out of the seven continents, and the rising mean sea level.
- Even if all radioactive forcing agents are held constant at year-2000 levels, a further warming trend would occur in the next two decades at a rate of about 0.1°C per decade, due mainly to the slow response of the oceans. Anthropogenic warming would continue for centuries, due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were stabilized.
- Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.
- Hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will very likely continue to become more frequent; and future tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures.
- Decreases in the amount of precipitation are likely in most subtropical land regions (by as much as about 20% in 2100), continuing observed patterns in recent trends.

Yet Africa contributes just over 4.9% of GHG emissions of all signatory countries of the UNFCCC[3]. Its contribution to world GHG emissions has increased only slightly in the past ten years. Whereby according to UNFCC GHG inventories, most of its GHG emissions are due to land use Change and Forestry. In particular, the continent is the lowest contributor to GHG emissions from energy generation activities across the world, representing only 3.8% of world CO2 emissions.[4] Africa’s contribution to global emissions is so small largely because its per-capita consumption of energy is also the lowest among all regions of the world.

1.2. Africa’s energy consumption

Africa’s a significant net exporter of energy resources. Yet ‘its 930 million inhabitants[5] consume the least amount of energy per capita. Some 650 million people in Sub-Sahara Africa,[6] out of a total population of 728 million, depend on traditional biomass fuels’ (African Development Bank, 2008) such as crop residues, dry animal dung patties, bundles of twigs from scrublands, fuel wood and charcoal from rapidly disappearing forests and woods.

The Graph below illustrates global Access to modern utility services across the income distribution

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Source: World Bank, 2005)

Endemic low per-capita consumption of energy is both a cause and a consequence of Africa’s prolonged poor socio-economic performance in the three decades since the first oil shock. Energy poverty, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa, manifests itself in a number of ways:

- In most African countries, less than 10 per cent of rural population has access to modern energy services[7]. More than 600 million people live in homes with no electricity connection and more than half of these lack capacity to pay for regular energy supplies (electricity, liquid fuels or gaseous fuels).

There are wide variations in rates of access to electricity among countries and between sub-regions and between rural and urban populations across the continent. As the graphs above and below show, universal access has almost been attained across North Africa. At the other end of the continent in South Africa, about 70% of households are connected. In 21 SSA countries, however, less than 10% of the population lives in dwellings with electricity. Access in rural areas is significantly lower. There is significant variation even among sub-regions of Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA): “access rates are 29% in West Africa,[8] 10% in Eastern Africa,[9] and 9% in Central Africa[10] and the Island States”.[11]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

- Use of traditional fuels in poorly ventilated cooking places is responsible for high levels of in-door air pollution, “resulting in an estimated 400,000 sub-Saharan Africans dying every year and severely affecting health of women and children.” (African Development Bank, 2008)
- Many countries have experienced a steady deterioration in the quality and reliability of electricity supply. Capital investment in capacity expansion of electric power infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in energy demand, coupled with poor operations and maintenance practices of many power utilities.
- Supplies of motor gasoline and diesel are unreliable, particularly during periods of price volatility and in remote rural areas. Asymmetrical market situations, characterized by a small number of vendors, poor regulation, and weak or non-existent consumer rights watchdogs, mean that consumers pay a high price and endure uncertainty of supplies. Furthermore, refining capacity on the African continent in 2004 was just over 3% of world-wide throughput.[12]
- Homes and small commercial and industrial consumers of gas face considerable supply and price uncertainties. “Africa holds about 13% of the world’s natural gas (NG) resources and, in 2005, accounted for some 6.2% of the global supply.”. (International Energy Agency, 2008). In the past, due to lack of adequate infrastructure, the bulk of petroleum gas vented in the process of oil production, particularly in West Africa, has been flared in the atmosphere, contributing to atmospheric pollution instead of being utilized in domestic power plants.


[1] - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC [2007a]): Fourth Assessment Report; Report of Working Group 1: Climate Change 2007 - The Physical Science Basis: Summary for Policymakers; February 2007.

[2] - Sir Nicolas Stern: Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change; October 2006

[3] - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: 162 countries out of 192 world countries signed the UNFCCC

[4] - In comparison, Western Europe contributes almost 15.5% and North America just over 27%.

[5] - This is the estimated population of the continent of Africa by the end of 2007.

[6] - Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) is a vast region covering some 23.358 million square kilometres, excluding the 5 North

African middle-income countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) and the Republic of South Africa.

[7] - UNDP white Paper for Regional Policy in Africa, 2005.

[8] - Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo: all members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

[9] - Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania (United Republic of), and Uganda:

all of them members of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), and (except Tanzania) members of the Common Market of

Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

[10] - Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Congo (People’s Republic of), Congo (Democratic Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon: all members of the Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC). Congo (DR) is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

[11] - Cape Verde (ECOWAS), Comoros (COMESA), Equatorial Guinea (CEMAC), Madagascar (SADC), Mauritius (SADC), Sao Tomé and Principe (CEEAC), and Seychelles (COMESA).

[12] - IEA: “Key World Energy Statistics”; 2006.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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458 KB
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Institution / College
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald – Summer Academy 2008
Energy Africa Environment climate change klimawandel global warming IPCC African; Development Bank strategy financing Adaptation mitigation financial flows continent




Title: Energy and environment in Africa - the twin challenge of climate change mitigation and sustainable development