If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.
If you live on an island in the ocean, energy and climate issues come together in a palpable way. Most small island developing states depend heavily on imported fossil fuels, especially diesel, for their power. For remote islands, in the Pacific for example, the fuel must be shipped over long distances. It’s expensive, the supply is limited and intermittent, and paying for it stretches government budgets. Because of this, low-income families and communities often rely instead on kerosene, and wood or other biomass for lighting and cooking.
Vietnam has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the past three decades. Along with that growth has come the expansion of energy-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, transport and power generation. Given the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, Vietnam’s total greenhouse gas emissions have more than doubled over the past decade, and are expected to triple by 2030. Although per capita CO2 emissions are still low, Vietnam has the 20th highest carbon intensity in the world.
Belo Horizonte está decidida a ser conhecida por seu compromisso com a sustentabilidade. Nos últimos anos, a iluminação pública foi trocada por um sistema mais eficiente, conduziu-se um inventário de emissão de gases causadores de efeito estufa e foram criados programas de compras públicas e construções sustentáveis. A empresa responsável pelo serviço de limpeza pública e tratamento de resíduos gera eletricidade a partir do biogás gerado no aterro sanitário. A cidade se orgulha de seus parques públicos e de sua área verde – com tamanho duas vezes maior que o recomendado pela Organização Mundial de Saúde (OMS).
The city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is determined to be known for its commitment to sustainability. In recent years, the municipal government has switched public lighting to a more efficient system, conducted a greenhouse gas inventory, and created programs for sustainable public purchasing and building certification. The utility responsible for public cleaning services and waste treatment generates electricity using biogas from landfills. The city prides itself on its public parks and on having twice the green area inside the municipal boundaries than is recommended by WHO guidelines. The name of the city itself means “Beautiful Horizon”. Read this post in Portuguese (Leia este post em português.)
Back in 2004, the electrical utility in Brazil’s biggest city had a major problem. AES Eletropaulo was losing a large proportion of its revenue due to almost half-a-million illegal connections, most of them in São Paolo’s slums. Not only that, but they were causing often multiple-house fires on a monthly basis, along with frequent electrocutions. But the utility’s efforts to fix the problem were stymied by its poor relations with slum-dwellers, which made it almost impossible to work in these communities.
For Africa’s poorest families, lighting is often the most expensive item in their budget, typically accounting for 10–15 percent of total household income. The energy poor in Africa spend about US$17 billion a year on fuel-based lighting sources. To put the full energy sector in perspective, independent estimates place worldwide spending on fuel-based lighting in developing countries at $38 billion.
Beyond household use, commercial use of fuel-based lighting can have even more acute economic impacts. Fishermen on Lake Victoria in Kenya, for example, often spend half their income for the kerosene they use to fish at night. Yet, while consuming a large share of scarce income, fuel-based lighting provides little in return. Fuel-based lamps, such as kerosene lamps, are costly, inefficient, and provide poor lighting. The smoke they emit causes respiratory and eye problems, while the flames from kerosene lamps are responsible for thousands of severe burns among children every year, along with untold numbers of devastating house fires.
But many African countries are making strides to put fuel-based power behind them. Kenya, for example, as I discuss in an article this week posted on InterPVNet, has one of the largest and most dynamic per capita solar PV markets among developing countries, with over 300,000 households having installed solar PV systems since the mid-1980s. Since 2000, annual sales for these systems have regularly topped 15 percent, and they account for roughly 75 percent of all solar equipment sales in the country. In addition, exciting and rapid developments in off-grid lighting with highly efficient long-lasting light emitting diodes (LED) lamps are also changing the set of options in formerly neglected markets.