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  • Adapting to climate change with decentralized renewable energy in developing countries

    Climate Change Knowledge Network

    Edited by Henry David Venema and Moussa Cisse

  • The International Institute for Sustainable Development contributes to sustainable development by advancing policy recommendations on international trade and investment, economic policy, climate change, measurement and indicators, and natural resources management. By using Internet communi- cations, we report on international negotiations and broker knowledge gained through collaborative projects with global partners, resulting in more rigorous research, capacity building in developing coun- tries and better dialogue between North and South.

    IISD’s vision is better living for all—sustainably; its mission is to champion innovation, enabling societies to live sustainably. IISD receives operating grant support from the Government of Canada, provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Environment Canada, and from the Province of Manitoba. The institute receives project funding from the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba, other national governments, United Nations agencies, foundations and the private sector. IISD is registered as a charitable organization in Canada and has 501(c)(3) status in the United States.

    Copyright © 2004 International Institute for Sustainable Development

    Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development

    All rights reserved

    ISBN 1-895536-84-7

    International Institute for Sustainable Development 161 Portage Avenue East, 6th Floor Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada R3B 0Y4 Tel: +1 (204) 958-7700 Fax: +1 (204) 958-7710 E-mail: Web site:

    About the CCKN

    The Climate Change Knowledge Network (CCKN) came together in 1998 to open and increase the exchange of knowledge and research expertise between developed and developing countries on climate change-related activities and to make this knowledge accessible throughout the world. Through the cross fertilization of ideas and collaborative efforts within the network, the CCKN strives to strengthen the pool of knowledge on climate change that can inform the international policy process on this issue.

    Collectively the member organizations of the CCKN seek to:

    • promote a more effective, sustainable and equitable climate change regime through capacity building, research and communication on issues such as the Kyoto mechanisms, adaptation and technology transfer;

    • improve dialogue and exchange among industrialized and developing countries in an effort to enhance understanding of the linkages between climate change and sustainable development in all regions; and

    • develop the capacity of its own member organizations to create and communicate policy-rele- vant, country- and region-specific knowledge on climate change.

    The CCKN puts a particular emphasis on using its unique combination of substantive, technical and geographic expertise and perspectives to build the capacity of developing countries to respond to climate change in a manner consistent with their own sustainable development priorities.

    Web site:

    The development of this publication was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).


  • Preface In the pages that follow, Seeing the Light: Adapting to climate change with decentralized renewable energy in developing countries explores the role that decentralized renewable energy (DRE) projects play as a mit- igative and adaptive response to climate change. Seeing the Light examines the rationale for developing DRE projects (or DREs) as a mitigation and adaptation response to climate change; presents the DRE experience in five developing countries; and examines the conditions under which the same countries can support and promote DRE through the existing Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. The book concludes with policy recommendations for more vigorous DRE support within the existing protocol and beyond the Kyoto era.

    The Delhi Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provides a useful entry point into understanding the role DREs can play in linking mitigation and adaptation issues within climate policy. The Delhi Declaration acknowledges that “significant cuts in global emissions will be necessary” to meet the Convention objective of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, but also reaffirms that “economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overrid- ing priorities of developing country partners” (UNFCCC, 2002). The Delhi Declaration highlights two development issues particularly relevant to climate policy, reflecting recent insights from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation: vulnerability to climate change increases with the level of under-development; and energy deprivation exacerbates under-development.

    Essentially, the Delhi Declaration expresses the realpolitik of climate policy—the South remains unin- terested in mitigating emissions decontextualized from a broader sustainable development agenda that addresses their high vulnerability to climate change, and the need to increase energy consumption for basic development. Rather than an impasse to coherent policy, however, the Delhi Declaration oppor- tunes a re-invigorated approach to climate change based on fundamental sustainable development prin- ciples, which reflect, in fact, mitigation-adaptation synergies and are intrinsic to the ecosystem-oriented poverty alleviation priorities counselled by the WSSD plan.

    The IPCC synthesis concluded that the least developed countries are the least endowed with adaptive capacity and hence most vulnerable to climate change. Climate stresses in the most vulnerable commu- nities exacerbate population, resource depletion and poverty pressures—the more extreme the climate change scenario, the greater the disparity between developed and developing countries. The IPCC also concluded that climate adaptation, sustainable development and improved equity can all be mutually reinforcing if policies are advanced which lessen resource pressure, improve environmental risk manage- ment and increase welfare for the poorest members of society (IPCC, 2001a, p. 7).

    Simultaneously, the World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation asserts the primacy of the ecosystem-level determinants of sustainable development and poverty alleviation, known as the water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity (WEHAB) agenda. Moreover, energy provi- sioning is understood with much greater clarity within the WSSD plan as a necessary pre-condition for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The WSSD plan also proposes decentralized renewable energy as a key delivery mechanism for improving energy services delivery to impoverished regions of the developing world. Seeing the Light explores this role for DRE as a fundamental sustainable development priority and as an example of a mitigation-adaptation synergy that provides a constructive focus for inte- grative rather than divisive international climate policy.

    Seeing the Light is divided into two major sections. Part I is devoted to developing a new conceptual model for DRE as an example of mitigation-adaptation synergies, and then reviews the DRE experience of five developing countries. Part II examines the Clean Development Mechanism as a key financial instrument for supporting decentralized renewable energy.

    Chapter 1 of Part I puts forward a general conceptual framework that illustrates how introducing mod- ern energy services through decentralized renewable energy can stabilize the ecological and social deter-

    Seeing the Light: Adapting to climate change with decentralized renewable energy in developing countries


  • minants of climate change vulnerability, while performing a critical climate change mitigation function. Chapter 1 begins with a high-level overview of the key implications of rural energy deprivation: defor- estation and ecosystem degradation (with significant greenhouse gas emissions implications), chronic rural poverty and high vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change. Chapter 1 then explores global sustainable development pathways and the integral role that decentralized renewable energy could play in stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that would prevent danger- ous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. We then describe how mitigation and adapta- tion synergies provide avenues for integrating sustainable development with climate policy, contextual- ized with respect to key relationships between the Millennium Development Goals and access to energy. We then turn to the related issue of poverty and climate change in the context of how climate stresses exacerbate poverty by impairing the ecosystem services upon which the poor rely heavily. Chapter 1 con- cludes with a full description of the role DREs play in rural agroecosystems, particularly how DREs can enhance the flow of regulatory and provisioning ecosystem services, and expand livelihood opportuni- ties—all of which builds adaptive capacity for climate change.

    Chapters 2–6 comprise case studies on the DRE experience in each of five developing countries. Each coun- try study illustrates some or m