Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Africa ready for climate change mitigation? (Interview)

by Aimable Twahirwa in Denmark
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Copenhagen: Rwanda along with other African countries is demanding rich nations to commit more than $40 billion a year for them to counter the consequences of global warming. However, researchers are expressing concerns on what major priorities would be considered for climate change adaptation and mitigation. RNA spoke to Mr. Alain Guinebault, Director of GERES, a French environmental and energy group which deals with researches to promote the use of renewable energy in rural areas for developing countries. Read interview below:

What are the current targets in research for developing countries?
In fact GERES works in South of France in advising local communities on how to save and use energy, how to use renewable energies, [and] give technical information. But our main activities with developing countries is to work on the contribution of energy, how it can improve the livelihood of the poor people who have difficulty to access energy, and who pay for energy at the highest price… It is important to note that the poorer you are, the more expensive energy becomes…Take an example of a candle which gives light…If you consider the efficiency of the candle to the ordinary bulb which is working on electricity on the ground. The price of a candle is higher than the price of electricity delivered by generator or the battery, and so on. We are emphasizing on how poor communities in developing countries could address the issue of green gas houses emissions.

But there is another similar initiative by the World Bank dedicated to improving the livelihood of local communities through Carbon Market finance?
Our project is mainly dedicated to promote the researches of using energy to save CO2 emissions. We have created funds where we can sell CO2 credits, and we inject this money in the projects in countries dedicated to the use of renewable energy resources. I agree that the World Bank and local community initiatives can theoretically be linked, but practically, it is far more difficult, because the World Bank gives loans to governments. This means that the local communities have to deal with the governments to access these funds, and it is quite difficult.

What are researchers doing to bridge this huge gap by providing efficient expertise to communities and other administrative leaders - considering the lack of adequate knowledge to face climate change adaptation and mitigation?
As researchers, our role is to collaborate with local communities and assess their direct needs - which is quite a wide concept, because our targets groups can be local entrepreneurs, families… And these kinds of people don’t usually have access to public or any other international funding. In such a case we support them to access public funding eventually coming from World Bank or any other organization such as UNDP and so forth

How do you assess the impact of this new research funding approach in developing countries especially in Africa?
For us it is important to monitor and evaluate what we are doing - because we are engaged in the long term in the developing countries [over 10 years]. Along these 10 years, we have had regular monitoring, and internal evaluation. What we get helps us to reorient the project. In some developing countries, we succeeded in disseminating 800,000 improved cooking stoves, based on the involvement of 30 local companies. This project has had huge impact.

But there has been some criticisms stating mismanagement of funds by governments which don’t afford the accountability system and the capacity to manage.
First of all, we are an NGO and we are carrying out our own researches, and our financial capacity is limited. The idea is to initiate and to develop methodologies and best practices on development. Our dream is when it is possible to have relations with local governments - such that at a certain point the project could be transferred to the local governments. This is in fact a theory. In practice, it is a case by case because in some countries, it is very easy to work with the governments and there is a willingness of the ministries to work with NGOs. But on the other side, we observe the lack of cooperation with the governments

How would you appreciate the move by the World Bank to finance green gas houses initiatives in African countries such as Rwanda?
In fact what we saw is that the World Bank is funding facilities of developing countries. They don’t seem to be appropriated by the Least Developing Countries. But in Africa, there is lack of human resources capacity - either in public or private sector. The NGOs actors are not trained, and this situation explains why there are a few projects which work with carbon finance.

Does this mean that the carbon initiative would not achieve its target then?
I cannot say that, but what we saw in the field is that there are few projects in Africa. And one of our emphasis in the coming future is to assess how to transfer this alternative energy technology in Africa by creating an alliance with NGOs and by promoting the social development funds initiative dedicated mainly to Carbon market finance. (END)

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