It has taken almost three years for Adnan to get back to school. After fleeing Syria, and an uncertain stay in Turkey, then another in Austria, he and his mother finally found asylum in Berlin in June.
It is his first week in class. He sits at the back, behind 11 students, taking in the scene. He listens and watches but doesn’t understand a word of what the teacher is saying in German. It is exhilarating to be there, nonetheless. At 15 years old, he is already tall and well-built. He is too big for his desk.
Over the past several years much has been written about the significant potential for solar energy generation in the Middle East and North Africa, where there is no shortage of sunshine. The International Energy Agency estimated that the potential from concentrated solar power technology alone could amount to 100 times the electricity demand of North Africa, the Middle East and Europe combined.
In the wake of commitments at the Paris climate conference (COP21), it is time to develop this rich source of low-carbon energy sitting close to Europe’s southern shores, and bolster efforts to agree on a framework to import clean, sustainable energy from North Africa.
As recently as 2012 there have been efforts to adopt a framework that would allow importing renewable energy from Morocco to Germany—through France and Spain—but electricity trade between countries typically becomes reality when there are economic benefits for all sides. Electricity trade has the added benefit of fostering closer political ties.
Expanding regional trade between North Africa and Europe has also been hindered by inadequate physical electrical connections between the two continents and poor physical integration in European electricity grids. There is currently only one electrical transmission interconnection between North Africa and Europe, namely the Morocco-Spain connection. Further, Spain’s interconnection with the rest of Europe is limited, with no new transmission projects undertaken to expand this capacity for the past three decades. At the same time, Spain had excess generation capacity because of the economic downturn experienced in Europe over the past several years. That made impractical the notion of allowing North African renewable energy into the Spanish market. Italy, another potential electricity gateway from North Africa, was in a similar situation.
In Europe, the year 2015 will be remembered as the year of the “refugee crisis.” Hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed treacherous waters and borders to flee war and persecution in Syria and the wider Middle East and Africa in search of protection in the European Union. Transit and destination countries have been struggling to manage the refugee flow and to register and shelter the new arrivals. At the same time, the EU is debating how best to tackle the sources of forced displacement and is stepping up support to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, who host the lion’s share of Syrian refugees. But largely missing from the frenetic activity so far, except in Germany, has been a thorough discussion of the next step: how to manage the integration of refugees in host countries beyond the initial humanitarian response of shelter and food.
Ministers, mayors, senior officials and experts from both the social protection and urban development spheres wrapped-up their intensive discussion at the 2015 South-South Learning Forum in Beijing, China. It was the first global event that looks at the emerging knowledge and practical innovations in the as-yet underexplored area of social protection in cities. Every single day, more than 180,000 people urbanize globally. Much of the world’s future depends on whether cities thrive or sink. Bank Group staff, who helped put together the Forum, share their reflections:
Ministers, mayors, senior officials and experts from both the social protection and urban development spheres wrapped-up their intensive discussion at the 2015 South-South Learning Forum in Beijing, China. It was the first global event that looks at the emerging knowledge and practical innovations in the as-yet underexplored area of social protection in cities. Every single day, more than 180,000 people urbanize globally. Much of the world’s future depends on whether cities thrive or sink. Representatives of donor countries, who helped support the Forum, share their reflections:
More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. If that number seems daunting, then consider this: 1.1 billion people – more than three times the population of the United States – live without electricity.
So it goes without saying that ending energy poverty is a key step in ending poverty itself. And world leaders agree – a sustainable development goal just for energy was adopted last month. It emphasizes the role of renewable energy in getting us to the finish line of reaching sustainable energy for all by 2030. What will give us a big boost in that race? Private financing.
We have all seen the numbers before: Over the coming decades, many countries in the developed and developing world alike will significantly age. One particular number to describe this development is the “old-age dependency ratio.” It measures the number of those aged above 65 years (currently defined as old age) as a share of those between 15 to 64 years (currently defined as working age). In other words, this ratio tells us how many retired people a potential worker has to sustain. With global aging, it will deteriorate dramatically in most countries over the coming decades. This raises serious concerns about the sustainability of pension systems.
Are we harnessing the power of the sun? With the success of rooftop solar and other initiatives, we’re beginning to head in the right direction.
Solar success has come from unexpected quarters. For example, Germany is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of sunshine, but we can follow Germany’s lead. It’s the world’s biggest small-scale photo-voltaic user with an installed capacity of 32 gigawatts, and 60 percent of capacity is from solar panels that are installed on people's roofs.
Germany also launched a 100,000 rooftops program, which provided concessional, 10-year loans along with attractive feed-in tariffs to further incentivize households to participate. This was soon after the success of its pilot 1,000 rooftops program, which created the right incentives and targets were achieved a year ahead of schedule – in 2003.
Germany, Japan and the U.S. state of California are fulfilling their strong solar power potential, and we could all learn from their examples – especially nations that haven’t yet explored the proven promise of solar.
Statistics like these convince me that there is so much more we can and must do. I’m heartened that progress in India has been steady, with successes that prove the country is ready for more.
A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth.
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties.
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.
Too often, the conventional wisdom in diplomatic or scientific circles is that the general public doesn't know what's good for them when it comes to foreign policy or tackling global threats. It's too complicated, the experts say; the public wouldn't understand. Yet new polling suggests that many in the public understand very well how global infectious disease outbreaks pose a serious threat to their lives and economic security - and they know what should be done about it.