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Enabling the Energy Transition in the Sahel

The Global North developed using carbon-intensive modes of production and have since the 1990s started to decouple their growth from carbon emissions. However, with the current trajectories of our Earth System, the Global South - including the Sahel region - needs to leapfrog to low-carbon development if we are to achieve a safe operating space for humanity

According to the environmental Kuznets curve, a hypothesised relationship between a number of environmental degradation indicators and income per capita, countries increase their level of pollution as their economies develop until they reach an income level where they begin to permanently reduce their emissions. This is due primarily to the structural shift of those economies from agriculture to industrial and then to service, but also due to production going to scale and improved efficiencies. The curve also bends because, provided there is adequate civic participation in government, as citizens climb the economic ladder, they demand better and higher-quality standards of living, including clean air and services like electricity.

Most OECD countries have reached the inflection point. Most of Europe did so in the 1990s. These countries have now decoupled their modes of production from emissions and so are able to reduce carbon emissions even as their economy grows. One of the main purposes of climate financing since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 is to facilitate support from developed countries to developing countries to help them leapfrog through those development stages using low-carbon development pathways. To do otherwise would break the global carbon budget, leading to increased costs for everyone. Source: World Bank, 2021.

Source: This graphic was developed by OAM Consult based on data from the World Bank and Climate Watch, 2021

Currently, Sahel countries are following the traditional carbon-intensive method of development, insofar as their GDP growth is occurring in line with growth in carbon emissions. To begin the decoupling process, a wide range of interventions are needed, from intensifying climate-smart agriculture and furthering the structural evolution of the economy towards industry and services, to speeding up the energy transition process by switching to cleaner fuels and improving efficiency. Whether or not the Sahel will be able to begin the decoupling process depends on the level of ambition of the region and the support it receives.

Date - 12 May - 2023


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