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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

Harness new energy technology to rescue fragile states from collapse

David Cameron leads calls for quantum leap in energy for poorest

Farmers walk next to solar panels at a farmland in Wadi Dhahr near Sanaa, Yemen October 28, 2019. Picture taken October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Farmers walk next to solar panels at a farmland in Wadi Dhahr near Sanaa, Yemen October 28, 2019. Picture taken October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A global campaign to back the establishment of local, renewable energy networks could lift countries plagued by conflict and insecurity out of the fragile states trap.

Leading politicians and officials are backing a worldwide call to action to help communities tap into energy resources beyond failing state electricity grids.

The call is issued on Wednesday by the UK-based Council on State Fragility, chaired by former prime minister David Cameron, ex-Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Donald Kaberuka, former head of the African Development Bank.

Post-pandemic stimulus plans should take account of the transformative potential of energy innovation, which can break the stranglehold of corrupt and incompetent officials.

"Covid-19 has triggered an unprecedented economic shock for these countries, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities," the council's report said.

"We have an opportunity to make a quantum leap by expanding clean, affordable energy access to fuel economic recovery and enhance stability.

"By securing new sources of energy enabled by technological breakthroughs, communities in countries like Yemen and Somalia can find new resilience to rebuild and generate new wealth.

"Fragile states have never been at greater risk of falling behind the rest of the world.

"Expanding energy access is essential to enable these states to escape fragility and achieve growth and development."

Green technology, such as solar mini-grids, can unlock opportunities for hundred of millions of people.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Saeed and 30 other statesmen signed the call.

The authors claim renewable solutions are cheaper and more resilient in conflict-affected settings.

Going off-gird is a necessity in many nations where whole cities, such as the Yemen capital Sanaa, do not have any power provided by the authorities, in that case the Iran-backed Houthis.

The demand for an energy revolution is targeted at the Group of Seven nations, which is chaired by the UK in 2021.

"Global action on climate change is vital and we must not leave those in fragile countries behind," Mr Cameron said.

"Investing in renewable, distributed and decentralised energy systems is cost-effective, practical, pro-poor, pro-green, and is particularly helpful in fragile states.

"This should be a priority for development: to reduce poverty and increase stability, for those in the world’s most vulnerable places and for us all.”

Financial commitments for off-grid solutions in countries with the largest energy access gaps amounts to just over 1 per cent of total development aid.

The sector received a relatively paltry $460 million in 2018.

"Fragile states have never been at greater risk of falling behind the rest of the world," the report states.

"Nor have the global dangers of fragility – extreme poverty, mass migration, and terrorism – ever been more serious.

"Expanding energy access is essential to enable these states to escape fragility and achieve growth and development."

The authors urged the private sector and aid agencies to support investment in renewable energy at scale.

Published: February 24, 2021 04:59 AM

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