Politics of Poverty

Three missed opportunities on climate and energy at the G7

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Wind, sun, and biomass are three renewable energy sources. Photo: Wikipedia http://bit.ly/R1iVtp

What important details did the leading global economies in mapping actions that would benefit the poor?

This blog post was co-authored by Sasanka Thilakasiri, a Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change for Oxfam America.

This week’s G7 leaders declaration struck some strong messages in speaking to the need to address climate and energy challenges and in supporting developing countries as they transition to low carbon economies. This is especially true in regards to language on the necessary phase out of fossil fuels over the course of the century. Yet the leading global economies missed some important details in mapping actions that would benefit the poor:

  1. While it is important for countries to signal their ongoing commitment to meet the $100bn goal by the year 2020 for climate finance as well as articulate the need for finance in the Paris outcome, the language simply isn’t good enough. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Chancellor Merkel committed that Germany would double their public finance commitment to meet the $100bn goal. We were looking for other countries to do the same. Support for adaptation needs in developing countries is woefully inadequate and private finance will not get us closer to addressing the massive adaptation funding gap that currently exists.
  2. The G7 placed big emphasis on the role of development finance institutions to increase the flow of investments to clean energy, but these institutions do not have a sparkling track record. Any type of development finance interventions, public or private, need to be aligned with the strongest environmental and social safeguards and standards. Only with such measures in place, can we ensure that projects actually benefit the poor with clean, reliable energy access that causes less harm.
  3. The Annex of the declaration speaks of a 10,000 MW goal of additional renewable energy in Africa by 2020, specifying renewables to include “solar, onshore and offshore wind power, hydro, biomass and geothermal, off-grid renewables, and grid and corridors deployment.” To put it into perspective, the U.S. has the potential to install 32 GW of new utility-scale Solar PV by the end of 2016 – a whole lot more and them some. The inclusion of large-scale hydro, in particular, while having potential to meet energy needs, has a poor track record on energy access and development. Just one large scale hydro project could alone meet this 10,000 MW goal, and yet still fail to meet the energy access needs of the poor. Any energy project needs to have clear guidelines in place to ensure energy access for the poorest. A recent Oxfam and ODI report shows how off-grid clean energy solutions actually benefit a greater proportion of the energy needs of the poor, and deserves greater prioritization.

Having more specificity, not less, on the scale-up of climate finance, investments in renewable energy, and the types of standards and safeguards used in making clean energy investments will be essential in addressing the needs of the poor especially as the attention shifts to Addis and Paris in the coming months.

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