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Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate

AfricaFocus Bulletin
July 6, 2015 (150706)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

With less than six months before this year's UN Climate Change conference in Paris, it is clear that commitments by governments to action on climate change will fall short of that necessary to keep global warming under the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, despite recent new pledges by the United States, Brazil, and China (; But, beyond national governments, there are signs of growing momentum for more rapid "transformational" action. Particularly notable is the recognition that such action must simultaneously address economic inequality and development as well as the natural environment.

This recognition is particularly relevant for Africa, where fossil-fuel companies and much conventional wisdom have posed a false dichotomy between development and the transition to renewable energy, claiming that continued reliance on fossil fuels is essential to promote economic development and address poverty. In fact, the needed climate transition is imperative both for the sake of the planet and for the sake of sustainable economic development that benefits the majority of Africa's population rather than only foreign interests and local elites.

Such a broader perspective was featured in June, both in the widely publicized encyclical by Pope Francis and in this year's report from the Africa Progress Panel headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, entitled "Power, Planet, and People" ( But it is also visible at many other levels, including among multilateral agencies, civil society groups, and many private-sector investors as well. And it is reflected in practical terms in the rapid advances of renewable energy on the ground, despite failures of governments and the immense power of vested interests in fossil fuels and business as usual.

Thus the Global Status Report on the status of renewable energies, also released in June ( / direct URL:, noted an 8.5% increase in renewable energy from 2013 to 2014 and, significantly, a "decoupling" of positive economic growth (3%) from energy-related CO2 emissions, which were unchanged in 2014 from 2013 levels.

Another key report released in June is the International Energy Agency's "World Energy Outlook Special Report 2015: Energy and Climate Change" ( - direct URL: This report evaluates the country pledges to date, finding that these will not ensure a peak in energy-related CO2 emissions by 2030. In contrast, it proposes a "bridging" strategy that can reach such a peak turning point by 2020.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the "People's Test on Climate" statement by a wide range of international civil society groups, including the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, as well as two articles on (1) "off-grid" strategies for energy access and (2) the rapid growth of windpower for the electric grid in South Africa, where the existing coal-based strategy continues to demonstrate its ineffectiveness to prevent energy shortages.

A good summary of the People's Test on Climate and its importance is the article by Brandon Wu of ActionAid USA. See

For more on the parallel "decline of coal," see

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and the environment, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

The People's Test on Climate 2015 - Direct URL:

Nothing less than a systemic transformation of our societies, our economies, and our world will suffice to solve the climate crisis and close the ever-increasing inequality gap.

After over 20 years of stunted and ineffective action to reduce climate pollution by governments -- particularly in wealthy countries that have failed to meet their legal and moral responsibilities -- only urgent and transformative and systemic change that can address the root causes of the crisis and deliver what is needed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the limit beyond which climate impacts will become potentially catastrophic.

The urgency to keep temperatures down is not just about the planet and the environment. It is about people, and our capacity as humanity to secure safe and dignified lives for all.

As social movements, environmental non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other civil society organizations with deep roots in communities around the world struggling to cope with the climate crisis, we take hope from the fact that while the scale of the challenge is enormous, people already have solutions and alternatives that work at the scale we need. From decentralized community-owned renewable energy for mitigation, poverty reduction and sustainable development, to agro-ecological methods for adaptation, there already exists a wealth of proven ideas and experience from which to build a global transformation -- and it is booming.

People's demands and solutions are based in our vision of the world that recognizes the need to live in harmony with nature, and to guarantee the fulfillment of human rights for all, including those of Indigenous Peoples, women, youth and workers.

These people's solutions upset "business as usual" because they must, in order to lead us towards a more equitable, just and sustainable world -- but for this very reason, they face serious barriers. This is why the demands of our Southern people's movements, which represent the world's communities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts yet have had no role in creating the problem, are so critical if we want a better, more just, and sustainable society. These demands include, but are not limited to:

  • Sustainable energy transformation -- redirecting finance from dirty energy to clean, affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy, supporting people's solutions including decentralized community renewable energy systems, banning new dirty energy projects, ensuring that access to clean, affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy is a public good, reducing energy consumption particularly by wealthy elites, and ensuring that reducing poverty and achieving justice is prioritized throughout the transformation;
  • The right to food and water -- ensuring people's access to water and to land for climate resilient food production, stopping land grabs and the ongoing conversion of land from food to commodities like biofuels that are falsely presented as solutions to the climate crisis, and supporting sustainable agro-ecology and climate resilient food production systems;

  • Justice for impacted people -- securing and building the resilience of impacted people including reparations for the world's impoverished and marginalized people who have no role in causing climate change, yet whose lives and livelihoods are endangered by its effects, supporting a just transition for workers into the new environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy, and supporting people- and community-driven adaptation and rehabilitation solutions.

Securing our vision in a just and equitable manner cannot be left to governments' voluntary "good will." Our governments are too heavily influenced by the entrenched interests whose power, profits and lifestyles would be impacted by the transformation. The poorest, most vulnerable and worst impacted are often excluded entirely from decision-making processes; for any just outcome, space must be created for inclusive people's participation in decision-making and in implementation of those decisions at all levels.

With all that said, history is full of examples of people's power overcoming the power of a few narrow interests.

This year will bring governments back to the climate negotiations, in Paris, to scale up climate action in the immediate short term, and to agree upon a new global climate agreement to come into place post-2020. When measured against the people's demands above, as well as the imperatives of science, the Paris Summit looks like it will be very far from what is needed by people or the planet. Instead, it risks legitimizing the current unjust and unsustainable balance of power in favor of elites, while only making minor tweaks around the margins of the status quo.

Yet the balance of power can and will change, because people across the world are prepared to fight to protect their homes, their right to energy, their right to food, and their right to a decent job. That power can be mobilized to come together and make clear demands of the Paris Summit, to force it to be a signal that the real transformation we need has arrived.

To meet that test, the Paris Summit must:

  • Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions -- in line with what science and equity require, deliver urgent short-term actions, building towards a long-term goal that is agreed in Paris, that shift us away from dirty energy, marking the beginning of the end of fossil fuels globally, and that keep the global temperature goal in reach;

  • Provide adequate support for transformation -- ensure that the resources needed, such as public finance and technology transfer, are provided to support the transformation, especially in vulnerable and poor countries;

  • Deliver justice for impacted people -- enhance the support to adaptation in a new climate regime, ensure that there will be a separate mechanism to provide reparations for any loss and damage that goes beyond our ability to adapt, and make a firm commitment to secure workers' livelihoods and jobs through a Just Transition; and

  • Focus on transformational action -- ensure that renewable and efficient solutions are emphasized rather than false solutions that fail to produce the results and protection we need, such as carbon markets in land and soil, dangerous geoengineering interventions, and more.

Governments and the Paris Summit outcome will be judged on this fundamental litmus test. But Paris will not only be about a long series of negotiations under the UNFCCC. Paris will not only be about what our governments achieve -- or fail to achieve. Paris will also be the moment that demonstrates that delivering concrete actions for the global transformation will come from people and not our politicians.

We see Paris as a beginning rather than an end -- an opportunity to start connecting people's demands for justice, equality, food, jobs, and rights, and strengthen the movement in a way that will force governments to listen and act in the interests of their people and not in the vested interests of elites. Paris will launch us into 2016 as a year of action -- a year when people's demands and people's solutions take center stage.

Climate change needs our urgent commitment and action, in global solidarity. We are continuing to hold corporate and political elites accountable for their actions on climate change. And our numbers will grow as the climate movement of movements becomes more and more united and linked beyond the COP in Paris. We will encourage more and more citizens to support people's solutions. We will continue our struggles at local, national, regional and global levels to ensure that it is people that spearhead the just transformation of our society.

Adriano Campolina, Chief Executive, ActionAid International

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)

Maria Teresa Hosse, Facilitator, Bolivian Platform for Climate Action

Bernd Nilles, Secretary General, CIDSE (network of Catholic development agencies)

Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/ Oil Watch

Jagoda Munic, Chair, Friends of the Earth International

Dr Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director, Greenpeace International

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Demba Dembele, President, LDC Watch (Least Developed Countries Watch)

Carolina Amaya Tobar, Executive Director, Mesoamerican Campaign for Climate Justice

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General, Pan African Climate and Environmental Justice Alliance (PACJA)

May Boeve, Executive Director,

Why Should Climate Philanthropy Care About Energy Access?

Justin Guay, Program Officer, Climate at Packard Foundation

Huffington Post, July 1, 2015

Investing in clean energy access provides a disruptive opportunity to revolutionize electricity systems and get on the right side of the politics of development -- philanthropy just hasn't realized it yet.

To be fair, philanthropy needs to step up its game on climate across the board. Our investment is woeful -- only 2 percent of all philanthropic funds are devoted to transitioning to a clean energy economy and staving off the worst impacts of climate. That's why some big name foundations are calling on their colleagues to step up giving, and act on climate.

But it's not just the sheer dollars that matter -- it's also how we spend them. While we have a lot of work to do to be more strategic one of our most glaring blindspots is energy access. To turn that around someone needs to take the time to make the case that spending scarce climate dollars on energy access will drive transformational change. So let me give it a try.

Clean Energy Access Gets the Politics Right

For the more politically oriented amongst us let's be overt - the politics of climate at the global level are broken and they contaminate everything. We need to proactively seek opportunities to change those politics by aligning development and climate goals in an explicit way. Supporting the entrepreneurs working to bring poor rural communities their first energy services from clean energy sources like solar home systems and mini-grids aligns renewable energy with development. It means our solutions to climate are also the solutions to poverty alleviation,not the obstacle it's historically been. With exciting new research from the World Bank suggesting that distributed solar is also driving financial inclusion we have the opportunity to invest in an intervention that has cascading development benefits. All of which reframes our issue in a powerful way: the world's most advanced technology -- clean, distributed smart grids -- are the most appropriate for the world's poor. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands this, that's why he promised solar, not coal, for all by 2019.

Clean Energy Access Is Disruptive

In the 21st century where mobile phones are ubiquituous no rural villager demands, or expects, land line telephones. What's more, those villagers will increasingly demand access to more sophisticated communications services like the internet via their mobile devices. But they struggle to keep their phones charged thanks to a lack of power which is causing Telecom companies and their counterparts in the tech industry from Silicon Valley, giants like Facebook and Google, to lead the drive to electrify the poor. That constituency realizes the only way to quickly and cheaply power those devices is not to wait for the centralized dumb grid -- it's to quickly and nimbly deploy smart distributed generation. More importantly, the companies leading this charge are doing it with a potent mixture of mobile money financed distributed clean energy solutions, super efficiency, and innovative pay-as-you-go business models that deliver energy as a service. Ultimately, that creates a clean distributed smart grid that serves the poor first, not last. Meanwhile the rest of us deal with our 19th century dumb grids and their entrenched dinosaurs who fend off the future by trying to tax the sun while they fight for the right to continue to pollute our air and water.

Clean Energy Access is Mitigation

You'll notice that the direct mitigation piece of this puzzle comes last. That's because the politics and disruptive potential of these interventions are the real selling point. But that's not to say there aren't tons of C02 to be mitigated. Far from it. Take India where 75 GW of Diesel gen sets are installed which form the 'distributed reliability backbone' to the notoriously unreliable grid. That total is equivalent to half the country's coal fleet which is being added to at an incredible clip of 17 GW this year alone. A consumption whose giant sucking sound evaporates the country's foreign reserves and decimates the rupee's value.

But while diesel replacement is big, the far more interesting opportunity lies in the super efficient appliances necessary to wring services out of pico solar and their rebound effect for the developed world. No, not that rebound effect -- I'm talking about a positive effect that makes super efficient TVs (7 watts in off grid settings) the norm across the globe thanks to the sheer purchasing power that 1.2 billion consumers wield. Just imagine the US congress trying to justify appliance standards that are weaker than those in Bangladesh and you get the sense of the disruptive impact super efficiency could have on global appliance markets.

All said and done there is quite a case to be made for clean energy access. But outside the admirable efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation or the newly announced super efficient appliances work supported by Climate Works this issue still largely remains under the radar. It's high time we seized this opportunity and asserted a vision of the future that puts the needs of the poor first - by building a clean energy future from the bottom up.

South Africa: Wind Energy No Longer a Minor Player in SA

By Adam Wakefield

News24Wire, July 3, 2015

Wind energy is around half of all renewable energy currently produced in South Africa. As we lurch from one day of load shedding to the next, the sector is showing no sign of losing speed, rather the opposite.

Johan van den Berg, CEO of the SA Wind Energy Association, told News24 in an interview that 2011 was the year government formally introduced it into the energy sector, with commercial wind farm construction beginning in 2013.

Today, wind power contributed around 740 megawatts (MW) of electricity into the grid, "as a proportion of about 45 000 MW of all power installed in South Africa".

The average capacity factor for the entire fleet - as wind does not blow consistently - is currently over 70%.

"In terms of energy delivered, South Africa produces about 2.5% of what Denmark produces as a proportion of their ultimate electricity usage. So there's a lot of space for us to still improve," said Van Den Berg.

South Africa is a very large landmass, which is a very positive starting point. Mapped winds indicated that certain parts of the republic experienced very good winds by international standards.

"Almost everybody has agreed we can build a wind sector in excess of 20 000 MW and then it depends. You can pick a number somewhat or way above that," he says.

"20 000 MW is a big windy industry and from there, anything above that, we will see where it goes. That equates to maybe 7 000 towers and turbines ultimately, considering that the towers are getting stronger and more powerful all the time."

U shape of wind

The mapped wind of interest to the industry showed a U shape from the south, starting 350km to 400km north and somewhat west of Cape Town, running down the South African coastline to almost the edge of the Transkei.

Winds were also found inland, somewhat surprisingly Van Den Berg said, in the central Karoo.

"It's a surprisingly good wind area... Bloemfontein will not be your best place. Pretoria, I think, has the lowest wind speed in South Africa."

The second phase of the South African Wind Energy Programme (Sawep), an initiative with the UN Development Programme which paid for the mapping, has recently been approved. The rest of the country would now be mapped, with Van Den Berg expecting some positive surprises.

An advantage of wind power was its relatively short up-time compared to fossil or nuclear power generation.

It could take three to four years to be ready to bid, with an environmental impact assessment taking a year and a half within that period. This has already taken place with many wind projects at the execution stage.

Wind measures are also done on site, with wind mast set-ups placed at the same height as the intended turbine for a period of one to two years.

"An international expert then comes and guarantees you a specific output if you use a specific machine with a specific blade, and you know exactly what you are going to get," he said.

A giant is built

From bidding, the next phase moved to what is referred to as financial closure, where construction begins.

"That can maybe be eight to nine months and thereafter, if it's a small wind farm, you build it in 12 to 14 months."

Very large wind farms were being built in South Africa, "extremely large by international standards".

"We are generally building 130, 140 MW - 60 large turbines - and that normally takes about 18 months, which is still the blink of an eye compared to fossil fuel or nuclear power plants, that take 10 to 15 years."

The turbines themselves were very big, though only around 5% of land at a site or farm is used by the end of construction, including infrastructure and roads. The rest remains available for use as it was before.

Each turbine is approximately four to six blade lengths apart, with the rectangular foundation being around 24 square metres in size. Once covered, the base of the turbine itself is around 2x2 metres.

"There's an anecdote about a farmer who assured the developer that he had his workers ready to guard against theft when the blades came, not appreciating that the blade is 50m long, and the diameter 100m, sometimes 117m," Van Den Berg said with a smile.

"The tower is normally about double the height of the blade, so the tower can be from 80m to 120m. It's a large piece of infrastructure, with the nacelle weighing around 120 tonnes."

Boosting local communities

A feature of the local wind energy industry is how wind power producers plough back a small percentage of their profits into surrounding local communities, speaking to the National Development Plan's developmental state and public/private partnership.

"The relationship between ourselves and Government's IPP (independent power producers') office is an early successful example of that," Van Den Berg said.

"That's actually starting to work. A lot of people in other industries got this wrong, but I think we are mostly getting it right."

The need in deep rural communities was very strong, with the prerogative being to try and develop those communities.

"I think the way in which the programme was structured, where you have to invest around 2% of your turnover into those communities, was a very far sighted move," Van Den Berg said.

"I probably spend close to half my time on that aspect, to make sure everybody is coordinated and pulling in the right direction."

SAWEA and its partners were trying to see which examples were the good ones to follow, and even internationally, when Van den Berg went to conferences overseas, this is the aspect people were most excited about.

"If you are an engineer, you love mechanical stuff, then building a turbine is very interesting, but then the next one looks pretty much the same and so on," he said.

"In South Africa we're building the same things that other people are building in other countries, but we're doing it in a very different way and in a very different context and that part is exciting."

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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