No energy security without ecosystem security in Eastern and Southern Africa

30 April 2009 | News story

Experts have designed a series of ecosystem and livelihood principles for energy decision-makers, which are relevant not just regionally but globally.

All energy options – apart from energy conservation – can have impacts on the environment, though what is less recognised is how the environment – if sustainably harnessed, can also provide energy options.

For more efficient and sustainable energy, decisions should not be taken alone by Energy Ministers, but Environment and Development ministries should also be involved. Decisions need to be based on strategic assessments where possible, with cost-benefit analysis that reflects real values. Finally, large-scale energy developments should always consider benefiting local, affected communities, in addition to large urban and industrial centres. Diversification from costly and polluting fossil fuels to a broad range of renewable energy options should be a priority for investments from governments, donors and financial institutions, rather than the polluting, unsustainable energy options that were recently highlighted as being funded through World Bank loans.

This region depends on natural resource based energy options,” remarked the new IUCN Regional Director of the Eastern and Southern Africa office, Mr Ali Kaka, during the opening session, “If the ecosystems that support them are not taken into account, double impacts can occur”. He gave the example of a forest which was cleared for coal mining, which then reduced the water flows for a near-by hydropower development.

At the workshop held in Pretoria, IUCN Members and other participants highlighted case studies from their respective countries, focusing on hydropower and both traditional bioenergy as well as advanced large-scale biofuel production, where the linkages between ecosystems, energy and livelihoods are most apparent. However, all energy options can be affected by changing ecosystems services.

Excellent Hachileka, IUCN’s Regional Climate Change Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa, further elaborated, “With climate change altering the benefits that ecosystems provide, it is important that energy decision makers take changing benefits of ecosystems into account and include energy considerations as part of an ecosystem-based approach to climate change adaptation.”

Outputs from the workshop include policy briefs for decision-makers to understand how an ecosystem-based approach to energy decision-making, based on regional case-studies. It was also discussed how IUCN members and partners can “walk the talk” and incorporate better energy systems in their respective organisations.

For more information, please contact:

Excellent Hachileka, Regional Climate Change Coordinator, IUCN ESARO, Zambia

Or

Nadine McCormick, Energy Network Coordinator, IUCN HQ