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Five ways to boost climate innovation in Ethiopia

Anthony Lambkin's picture

Semi-constructed skyscrapers dotting the horizon, shoppers, commuters and students flooding the sidewalks and a sea of trucks, cars and buses - all fighting for their own space along Bole road, Addis’ main thoroughfare. The signs of a decade of 10% annual economic growth for Ethiopia were evident in the cab ride to the hotel. The energetic vibe of Addis also reminded me that despite rapid advancements, it was still a country with one of the highest poverty rates in the world, large rural populations without energy access, significant bio-diversity and environmental risks and a nascent private sector to deal with it all. 

To engage the private sector was the reason I was in Ethiopia. I was preparing for the business plan development of an Ethiopian Climate Innovation Center (CIC) similar to the Kenyan CIC launching later this year. The $15 million program will invest in and support early-stage companies wanting to become more involved in the booming local and international cleantech markets while becoming profitable and competitive.

However the suite of services developed for each CIC look different in each market and is therefore designed via a rigorous gaps, opportunities and needs analysis with local stakeholders.  While in Ethiopia, I met with a few of the 100-plus stakeholders that will take part in the design phase of the Center. Public and private sectors, development partners, NGOs and academia were eager to share their expertise and experience of what was needed for a CIC in Ethiopia. These are my thoughts following those discussions:

Technology Innovation

Xiaodong Wang's picture

As my colleague Mike Toman noted recently, Geoffrey Heal of Columbia University said the following in a recent blog post:

"neither costs nor capital requirement will prevent us from decarbonising the electricity supply. The real obstacle to doing this largely with renewables is our current inability to store power, and as long as we cannot store power we will need to use non-renewable sources like nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage."

However, this view does not factor in future technological innovation, which I think is very significant.

The IEA Energy Technology Perspective projected that renewable energy could contribute around 50% of the power mix by 2050 under their Blue Scenario to achieve a 450 ppm world. Many other global leading energy/climate scenarios have the same projections, including those from Shell. Of renewable energy resources, geothermal, hydro, and biomass can provide base-load power. Indeed, solar and wind are intermittent.

To 'decarbonize' electricity supply, significant technological challenges remain

Michael Toman's picture

As WDR 2010 observes in the opening paragraphs of Chapter 7, "Technological innovation and its associated institutional adjustments are key to managing climate change at reasonable cost."  The development as well as diffusion of climate-smart technology was an important part of the debates leading up to Copenhagen.  A recent blog by Professor Geoffrey Heal  of Columbia University, whose work on climate change damages is referenced in the WDR, addresses this topical and controversial issue.  Writing at voxEU.org, a policy portal set up by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, Heal argues that

..."neither costs nor capital requirement will prevent us from decarbonising the electricity supply. The real obstacle to doing this largely with renewables is our current inability to store power, and as long as we cannot store power we will need to use non-renewable sources like nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage."

Heal's blog can be found at  http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4138.

Getting on a technology pathway to avoid dangerous climate change

Alan Miller's picture
   An IFC investment helps provide clean, affordable water to underserved communities in developing countries.

Many of the measures proposed in the World Development Report (WDR) 2010 will require substantial engagement with the private sector. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has estimated that more than 80 percent of the investment required for climate change mitigation and adaptation will have to be privately financed. For this to happen, the key requirement will be meaningful targets and supportive public policies.

One area in which private initiative will be critical is in the development and dissemination of new climate friendly technology. As the advance edition of the WDR states, "Technological innovation and its associated institutional adjustments are key to managing climate change at reasonable cost. . . . Mobilizing technology and fostering innovation on an adequate scale will require that countries not only cooperate and pool their resources but also craft domestic policies that promote a supportive knowledge infrastructure and business environment."

For several reasons, an increased focus on accelerating new technology is urgently needed.

Geoengineering: A Possible Climate Change Insurance Policy?

Michael MacCracken's picture
 A possible Climate Change Insurance Policy

   Photo © ochus b at Flickr under a
   Creative Commons license.

Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosol precursors ended today, more warming would occur in coming decades than the 0.8°C that has occurred to date, greatly intensifying climate change and its associated impacts. Already, sea level is rising, sea ice and mountain glaciers are retreating, the ranges of plant and animal species are shifting poleward and upward, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are both losing mass. Each round of the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that change is occurring more rapidly than previously projected.

Innovative Adaptation

Rosina Bierbaum's picture

co-authored with Arun Agrawal

Everyone agrees that innovation and its diffusion of innovations are key to managing climate change. Meeting the climate challenge in the coming decades will be fundamentally more difficult if we fail to come up with new, more cost-effective technologies.

But global efforts to innovate and share existing innovations fall woefully short of what is needed.

Nowhere is the gap between need and reality more glaring than for innovations related to adaptation. Members of climate change community who care about innovation have had their sights firmly fixed on technological innovations on the mitigation side: to reduce and capture emissions, to geo-engineer climate, to make energy use more efficient, to meet global energy needs through alternative and advanced renewable sources ... the list goes on.

Low-carbon growth: the only sustainable way to overcome world poverty

Nicholas Stern's picture

The two great challenges of the 21st century are the battle against poverty and the management of climate change.  On both we must act strongly now and expect to continue that action over the coming decades.  Our response to climate change and poverty reduction will define our generation.  If we fail on either one of them, we will fail on the other. The current crisis in the financial markets and the economic downturn is new and immediate, although some years in the making. All three challenges require urgent and decisive action, and all three can be overcome together through determined and concerted efforts across the world. But whilst recognising that we must respond, and respond strongly, to all three challenges, we should also recognise the opportunities: a well-constructed response to one can provide great direct advantages and opportunities for the other.

The World Water Forum in Istanbul: Bridging the divides?

Julia Bucknall's picture
World Water Forum

Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank

Twenty thousand people milling around thematic, country, commercial booths, attending political, learning, and topical sessions, watching musical and dance performances, and busily socializing in the hallways. All trying to work out how we can better manage water.

"Bridging the Divides" is the perfect name for this conference here in Istanbul. It's a city that links Asia and Europe, a city where many cultures have collided and where the religious buildings have housed worshipers and artifacts from different faiths.

Why coal?

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Some readers and activists may question why the World Bank Group funds coal-fired power plants and yet professes to embrace sustainable development. The answer is that there is an urgent need for energy in the poor countries that we serve and indeed in my home country, China. There are roughly 1.6 billion people in developing countries--700 million of whom are in Africa and 550 million in South Asia--who lack access to electricity.

An expensive band-aid?

Nicola Cenacchi's picture

PBS recently ran a Frontline documentary entitled “Heat”, on climate change. A section of the movie describes the status of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the US, a technology that both the IPCC and the IEA consider necessary to achieve emissions reduction. I note that no tests have been run so far in the US to verify the technical feasibility, economic viability and safety of this option. Purely from the technical point of view, the task could be feasible, although extremely challenging. It’s the idea of storing huge amounts of CO2 underground or in the deep seas (less likely) that makes me doubtful. CO2 will need to be sealed away in carefully selected sites, but safety issues are only part of the picture.

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