IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

6.9.2 Synergies with sustainability in developing countries

The failure of numerous development strategies in the least developed countries, most of them in Africa, to yield the expected results has been attributed to the fact that the strategies failed to address the core needs of such countries – these are economic growth, poverty alleviation and employment creation (OECD, 2001). Often a tension exists between the main agenda of most of these countries (poverty alleviation through increased access to energy) and climate change concerns. Increased access to modern energy for the mostly rural population has been a priority in recent years. Most countries, therefore, place more policy emphasis on increasing the supply of petroleum and electricity than on renewables or energy efficiency (Karakezi and Ranja, 2002). The success of climate change mitigation policies depends largely on the positive management of these tensions. GHG reduction strategies in developing countries have a higher chance of success if they are ‘embedded’ in poverty eradication efforts, rather than executed independently.

Fortunately, buildings offer perhaps the largest portfolio of options where such synergies can be identified. Matrices in Chapter 12 demonstrate that the impact of mitigation options in the building sector on sustainable development, for both industrialized countries and developing countries, is reported to be positive for all of the criteria used. Both Sections 6.6 above and Box 6.1 discuss many of the opportunities for positive synergies in detail; the next paragraph revisits a few of them.

The dual challenges of climate change and sustainable development were strongly emphasised in the 2002 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). GHG mitigation strategies are more realizable if they work mutually with MDGs towards the realization of these set objectives. For example, MDG goal seven is to ensure sustainable development, in part by reducing the proportion of people using solid fuels which will lead to the reduction of indoor air pollution (see sections 6.6.1). GHG mitigation and public health are co-benefactors in the achievement of this goal. Similarly, increased energy efficiency in buildings, or considering energy efficiency as the guiding principle during the construction of new homes, will result in both reduced energy bills – enhancing the affordability of increased energy services – and GHG abatement. If technologies that utilise locally available renewable resources in an efficient and clean way are used broadly, this provides access to ‘free’ energy to impoverished communities for many years and contributes to meeting other MDGs.

However, for the poorest people in both developing countries and industrialised countries, the main barrier to energy-efficiency and renewable energy investments is the availability of financing for the investments. Devoting international aid or other public and private funds aimed at sustainable development to energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives in buildings can achieve a multitude of development objectives and result in a long-lasting impact. These investments need not necessarily be executed through public subsidies, but may increasingly be achieved through innovative financing schemes, such as ESCOs or public-private partnerships. These schemes offer win-win opportunities, and leverage and strengthen markets (Blair et al., 2005).

With a few exceptions, energy policies and practices in residential and commercial buildings in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) do not take efficiency into consideration. However, energy efficiency in buildings has recently been recognised as one of the ways of increasing energy security and benefiting the environment, through energy savings (Winkler et al., 2002). South Africa, for example, has drafted an energy-efficiency strategy to promote efficiency in buildings (DME, 2004). Such policies can be promoted in other SSA countries by linking energy efficiency in buildings directly to the countries’ development agendas, by demonstrating how energy efficiency practises contribute to energy security. The positive impacts of these practices, including GHG mitigation, could then be considered as co-benefits.