Sustainable energy for poverty reduction
an action plan
This is archive content. For our current work on energy access for the poor, please see our advocacy pages.
A comprehensive Action Plan, produced by Practical Action (then ITDG) which details the steps to be taken at every level in order to provide modern sustainable clean renewable energy to two billion of the world's poorest people.
Download the full Action Plan as a PDF ~933K
(NB: this is a large file, and will take around 3 minutes to download on a 56K modem)
Sustainable development will only happen if poverty is tackled and the environment is protected. It is a false dilemma to say that we either tackle poverty or we save the planet. ITDGPractical Action and Greenpeace believe that poverty can be tackled without costing the Earth. Crucial to both is the rapid expansion of clean, sustainable and renewable energy.
There is now a growing consensus amongst policy makers that energy is central to reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, increasing literacy and education and improving the lives of women and children.
Some 1.6 billion people in the world, more than a quarter of humanity, have no access to electricity and 2.4 billion people rely on wood, charcoal or dung as their principal source of energy for cooking and heating. This fuel is literally killing people. Two and a half million women and children die each year from the indoor pollution from cooking fires.
The poor face another threat, paradoxically because of the over consumption of energy. Industrialised countries' excessive fossil fuel consumption is driving climate change, and the poor are bearing the brunt because poverty makes them the most vulnerable and least able to cope. Thousands have already died and millions more made homeless due to extreme weather events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described Africa, the world's poorest region, as "the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected change because widespread poverty limits adaptation capabilities".
The rapid expansion of clean and sustainable energy offers a win-win for the poor and the environment. For the poor, particularly the rural poor, without basic energy services, renewable energy is often the cheapest option. For industrialised countries a massive uptake of renewable energy will help to achieve the dramatic emissions cuts needed to avoid climate change. The growth of renewable energy is both necessary to provide energy services without choking the planet and to create the economies of scale necessary for a global expansion of renewable energy.
This report reviews some international actions taking place to provide sustainable energy services to some of the world's poor. Three countries, China, Peru and Mozambique, have been analysed to demonstrate how they are addressing access to energy. Examples are given of implementing energy initiatives, which demonstrate the clear role that sustainable and renewable energy technologies have in fulfilling the energy needs of poor people in these countries.
The cost of getting energy to the world's poor is not prohibitive. To light up the homes of 1.6 billion people with clean sustainable energy will cost in the region of US $9 billion a year for ten years. This compares with between US $250 and US $300 billion a year spent on subsidising fossil fuels and nuclear power.
World leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development have a historic opportunity to face the greatest threat to our collective survival because of our unsustainable use of energy. They must decide to answer the needs of nearly two billion poor people who lack access to sustainable modern energy services and also to change the conventional energy development path of industrialised countries towards renewable technologies.
An action plan for sustainable energy for poverty reduction
Sustainable, clean energy can play a key role in reducing the huge burden of poverty and environmental degradation around the world. In order to maximise the role of clean and renewable energy in poverty reduction significant steps forward must be made to:
- implement strategies which will allow access to clean energy for the world's two billion poorest people in ten years
- greatly expand global renewable energy markets particularly in the North to create economies of scale
- stimulate clean and renewable energy markets in developing countries to increase energy options available for sustainable development
Clean renewable energy is defined as modern biomass, geothermal, wind, solar, small scale hydropower and marine energy.
The action plan sets out a clear agenda for achieving the win-win goal of poverty reduction and action on climate change.
An international declaration must produce a Sustainable Energy Action Plan to both:
- massively expand the use of renewable energy North and South, and
- ensure access to sustainable and renewable sources of energy to the two billion of the world's poorest people who currently do not have access to basic, modern energy services, in ten years as a fundamental part of achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving the people in poverty by 2015.
In order to implement this plan we call on all governments to:
- Ensure that International Financial Institutions (IFIs) immediately target 20 per cent of energy sector lending and support towards renewable energy development and energy efficiency programmes and phase out such lending in five years.
- Phase out subsidies to conventional energy sources within ten years, with a transition plan and flexible time frames to avoid undue hardships on developing country economies overly reliant upon conventional energy sources and exports.
- Make available the finance and infrastructure needed to create systems and networks to deliver the seed capital, institutional support and capacity building to support and facilitate the creation of sustainable energy markets of the developing world.
- Target aid towards halving the number of deaths from indoor air pollution from cooking stoves by 2015 by increasing support for clean cooking strategies.
- Provide one billion people with improved, clean stoves by 2015.
The Action Plan was launched at a high-profile event in Johannesburg on 30 August 2002 - full details
- ITDGPractical Action at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
- Sustainable Energy at WSSD
- WSSD energy agreement is a sham
- Power to the People: sustainable energy for the world's poor - an agenda for change
- Power to the People: an ITDGPractical Action forum on energy and poverty reduction at WSSD in Johannesburg, 2 September 2002
- Power to the People: an ITDGPractical Action seminar on energy and poverty reduction, 17 July 2002
- ITDGPractical Action's position on the realities of renewable energy and poverty reduction
- Why energy is fundamental to improving the lives of poor people
- Technical solutions to energy needs must be accessible, affordable and appropriate
- ITDGPractical Action's energy programme