Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG)


  1.  The inquiry of the International Development Committee into Global Climate Change and Sustainable Development, as set out in the detailed guidance notes, is to be comprehensive and far reaching in its scope. This reflects the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the impacts of climate change, and the interdependence of the many factors affecting sustainable development and poverty reduction. ITDG is in agreement with the IDC on the importance to global sustainable development of climate change caused by the actions of humanity. In contributing to the deliberations of the Committee we would like to focus on the central issues and comment from the perspective of our own experience.

  2.  The burning of fossil fuels for industrial, commercial and domestic energy use, as well as transportation, is the primary human source of 75 per cent of all green house gas (GHG) emissions. Energy consumption has consequently become a key focus of attention in debates about climate change. ITDG, an international NGO, has been working on practical and policy aspects of appropriate energy technologies for over 20 years, and for these reasons we shall focus our comments on questions concerning energy consumption and generation.

  3.  Climate change is primarily a consequence of the activities of industrialised countries. Though more than three quarters of the world's population are poor, they have contributed less than one third of human carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions and less than 20 per cent of industrial emissions. A significant reduction globally in GHG emissions will therefore require changes in energy consumption patterns in industrialised countries.

  4.  Despite being a minor contributor to GHG emissions, the poor in developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change through less stable climate, greater incidence of natural disasters, desertification, and risks to food supplies. Sustainable development in the South requires concerted action by the governments of industrialised countries to reduce the GHG emissions that cause climate change, and it would be erroneous to place the burden of fossil fuel reduction on developing countries.

  5.  Developing countries need adequate energy provision to meet basic human needs, as well as for economic and social development. Currently an estimated 1.5 to 2 billion people globally lack adequate energy supplies. Though energy consumption in the South needs to increase in order to reduce poverty, current relatively low levels of energy consumption provide an opportunity for a cleaner energy technology path to be adopted.

  6.  The general world-wide trend is towards clean energy technologies. It has been estimated that the markets for clean energy technologies (CET) will grow from less than US$7 billion today to US $82 billion by 2010 ( Some clean technologies, such as wind power, photo-voltaics, and fuel cells, will continue to experience double-digit annual growth. However, the growth of clean technologies will be uneven, with some experiencing faster commercialisation than others.

  7.  With respect to renewable energy, it is likely that the main increase will come from large-scale hydro plants. It is predicted that the world will be using 50 per cent more hydro power by 2020. Other renewables, despite a significant growth rate, will account for only 3 per cent by 2020, up from the current 2 per cent (World Energy Outlook, 2000, OECD).

  8.  The trend towards clean energy technologies (CETs) will have a positive impact on reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and ultimately on the environment. However, it is not obvious that the benefits will be equally shared and that poor people will be among the beneficiaries. This is in part because a wide range of technologies can be considered as CETs, and scale and complexity can vary greatly within the same type of technology. Wind energy, for example, could be harnessed by deploying large grid connected wind farms, with imported equipment in the case of developing countries, or through small decentralised wind systems based on local technical and manufacturing resources.

  9.  Generally, the consumption of fossil fuels in developing countries needs to increase if the international development targets are to be achieved. Given their low levels of energy use at present, their contribution to GHG emissions will therefore marginally increase. This increase can be limited by using cleaner fuels, greater energy efficiency, greater use of renewable energy sources, and fuel substitution in urban areas. In some cases, for example China and India, there is a need to cut fossil fuel consumption in countries through substitution and energy efficiency.

  10.  Lessons from the North could help countries in the South to design energy strategies which take into consideration the environment, without compromising the poverty reduction goal. This implies a development model inclusive of energy choices based on a pattern of energy consumption that will optimise the use of small-scale decentralised energy. For instance, high energy efficiency lamps could be, in the long term, the best domestic application for renewable energy despite their relative high initial cost.

  11.  The sustainable supply of improved and affordable energy services for meeting household energy needs is the first priority of poor people. It is also of vital importance in the reduction of poverty. The International Energy Agency has estimated that more than two billion people in the developing world use biomass for cooking. The total requirement of biomass for cooking in developing countries is around 350 million tonnes of oil equivalent (World Energy Outlook, 2000, OECD). About half the world relies on biomass fuels for domestic energy, with consequent excessive levels of indoor air pollution to which women and children are exposed.

  12.  Indoor air pollution is one of the leading causes of infant and child mortality in developing countries. In Asia, such exposure accounts for between half and one million excess deaths every year. In sub-Saharan Africa the estimate is 300,000 to 500,000 excess deaths (WHO Air Pollution guidelines: Fact Sheet No. 187, revised September 2000). Indoor air pollution is also a major contributory factor in chronic obstructive lung disease in women who cook using biomass, and is also implicated in active TB and blindness. Although the problem of indoor air pollution is now recognised, there has been very little done in working with communities to identify appropriate and affordable interventions to remove smoke.

  13.  The International Energy Agency has estimated at 60 per cent the potential population who may switch to more sustainable use of biomass. The financial costs to provide this portion of the population with more efficient cooking stoves are estimated to be around US $12 billion. Estimates indicate that, outside China, fewer than 100 million people get their meals cooked on improved stoves. Providing energy-efficient cooking stoves to an additional 200 million people would amount to a total cost of US $2 billion.

  14.  The impact of small-scale energy technologies and particularly renewable energy may have a significant impact on the livelihoods of poor women and men because a limited amount of power allocated to basic domestic and productive end uses is sufficient to improve dramatically the social and economic conditions of poor communities.

  15.  ITDG's work over the last two decades on improved stoves and micro hydro had positive impact on the environment compared with other available credible options. The stove programme in Kenya, for instance, was successful for a number of reasons: the central production of key components; the use of small enterprises to produce and market affordable stoves in areas where users could afford to pay; the use of women's groups for stove dissemination in rural areas; and the tailoring of designs to meet local conditions.

  16.  Successful demonstrations of the best technical, social and economic practices in the field of small-scale energy projects should be replicated on a large scale to make a significant impact on poor people. A recent study by ITDG evaluated small scale energy projects (improved cookstoves, biogas digesters, solar home systems and micro hydro power) in terms of both their emission reductions and the development benefits they provided. This analysis has been used to provide guidance to policy makers for the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol.

  17.  The experience of ITDG, and others, in addressing the energy needs of poor communities and small-scale producers, particularly of women, has identified a number of areas where further action is required. To achieve cleaner energy technology paths in developing countries, and contribute to poverty reduction, it will be important:

    —  To explore alternative, cleaner energy options for lighting and cooking such as biogas wind, and solar, to widen the range of affordable and appropriate energy options for poor people;

    —  To develop the capability to design, implement and operate small-scale renewable energy projects, where they can be proven to be more accessible, more cost-effective, and more sustainable than fossil fuel based options;

    —  To emphasise the use of energy for productive purposes, low cost technology for energy conversion and use, and the preference for local equipment and raw materials; and

    —  To research and develop a comprehensive policy framework to make fuel-switching a viable option for the urban poor.

  18.  Sustainable development and mitigation of the impact of climate change require the development and diffusion of appropriate technology and the strengthening local capabilities to provide alternative energy options. There is currently no development co-operation mechanism which would favour small-scale projects implemented by local players such as small entrepreneurs, rural communities. Reliance on market mechanisms, which tend to be geared towards Northern consumers, is unlikely to develop and deliver the technologies required to enable the poor to adopt a cleaner energy path. Yet there is a vast potential for local, small-scale projects which, if replicated on a large scale, could have a significant impact on climate change and sustainable development. Support for the development and diffusion of energy technologies appropriate to the needs of the poor should therefore be an integral element to international development co-operation strategy.

Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG)

January 2002

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