After Paris: Addressing energy poverty in Africa is one solution

One of the major conflicts at the Paris climate negotiations is between wealthy nations and developing ones: Who has generated the most greenhouse-gas emissions, and who should bear most of the responsibility for reducing emissions going forward?

Up-and-coming economies want the richer nations, including the United States, to foot the bill for their transition to clean energy. This is the area where Fuel Freedom’s new Africa project could achieve the greatest benefit.

Africa-farmingFuel Freedom is partnering with IESE, the internationally renowned graduate business school in Spain, to create an MBA program in which students would learn ways that fuel choice can help communities in Kenya.

The “emPOWERing Africa” program, whose launch in September was recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, will help in four ways:

  • Cookstoves. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3 billion people around the world cook their meals using stoves or open fires that burn wood, leaves, coal or dung for fuel. Using ethanol-powered stoves, which burn much cleaner, could save 4 million lives worldwide each year.
  • Transportation. Vehicle emissions, including cars and trucks, account for 23 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as smog that worsens respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Many African vehicles could be converted to run on cleaner-burning ethanol.
  • Fertilizers. Most fertilizer used in African farming is made using natural gas but must be imported. A ton of urea (derived from coal) used to make fertilizer can skyrocket in cost as it is delivered to African countries, largely because of transportation costs. Locally produced fertilizer, made using the biomass-based soil enhancer biochar, could help African farmers cut costs and increase crop yields.
  • Electricity. Wider use of generators powered by alcohol fuels like ethanol and methanol — which can be derived from locally grown, inedible crops — could give Africans a more reliable source of electricity.

Uganda-taxi-buses2The Fuel Freedom program will begin next year at the IESE-affiliated Strathmore University in Nairobi, with the selection of candidates for the curriculum at IESE in Barcelona. Business leaders, policymakers and other stakeholders are being recruited to gain knowledge from the program, with those lessons applied as practical solutions back in Kenya. The initiative will be led by Prof. Ahmad Rahnema, the new Chair in Energy and Social Development at IESE.

Eventually those solutions would be applied to other African nations.

This ground-level approach could represent an example to negotiators at the Paris talks, which will continue into nearly mid-December. Leaders of developing nations want the West to pay billions of dollars to help poorer countries reduce emissions, while achieving a sustainable economic growth rate. But solutions don’t have to require massive subsidies or re-inventing the wheel. The tools are already at hand.

Kenya is ready to do its part: It was among the first of the nations represented in Paris to contribute an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC — a sort of road map for reducing GHG emissions. Kenya says it intends to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030 through expansion of:

… geothermal, solar and wind energy production, other renewables and clean energy options; low carbon and efficient transportation systems; clean energy technologies to reduce overreliance on wood fuels.

You can help this effort by donating to Fuel Freedom. Donations will help us put this project into action, as well as promote our initiatives stateside.

After the Paris conference has disbanded and representatives go home armed with some sort of agreement, the hard work will begin in earnest. Projects like ours are a practical way to improve health and slow climate change, without the need for massive infrastructure investment.

Consider including Fuel Freedom in your year-end giving plans.

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