The CoM SSA Day event held in Dakar was the ideal place to exchange knowledge and experiences among the different actors of the climate community on cost-effective ways to address climate change while reducing energy waste, saving money, and affordably expanding the use of renewable energy resources. Some of the conclusions achieved at the event are that energy efficiency is critical to solving the climate crisis, and local governments are central to achieving the transition into resilient cities.
Through its co-implementing partner the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa hosted CoM SSA Day during the Sustainable Mobility and Climate Week, #SMDC2022, in Dakar Senegal. Co-organised by Climate Chance Association, CETUD and CODATU Association, the week-long event brought together participants from all around the world to Dakar to focus on climate change adaptation through energy efficiency and ecosystem-based solutions, with an emphasis on coastal areas.
CoM SSA Day highlighted the most pressing issues of climate change affecting sub-Saharan African countries at the local level. A session on climate change adaptation through energy efficiency explored the interconnectedness of efficiency; cost reduction, and climate change mitigation and different strategies that can be applied to enhance energy efficiency in public infrastructure.
Africa is today the region with the highest urban growth rate in the world
Africa is home to an estimated 1.4 billion people, with around 40% of this population living in urban areas. The continent’s population is projected to double between now and 2050 and two-thirds of this growth will be absorbed by urban areas, leaving an additional 950 million Africans to call a city home. This rapid urban growth is a key driver of energy consumption, but in sub-Saharan Africa, energy consumption remains among the lowest in the world. According to the Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Reportreleased in 2021, while the majority of the global population gained access to electricity during the last decade, in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without electricity increased.
Traditional biomass, mainly wood and charcoal, accounts for 66% of total final energy consumption region-wide and is used across all non-transport sectors, making sub-Saharan Africa the only region in the world with such a heavy reliance on biomass.
In addition, climate hazards resulting from climate change pose serious risks to the energy sector, making the transition to energy efficiency a must. Monica Maduekwe, from ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy ad Energy Efficiency (ECREE) said, “only half of the population in ECOWAS countries, representing over 300 million people, have access to energy and this is why energy efficiency must be the first form of renewable energy”.
Local governments play a key role in shaping the energy landscape of sub-Saharan Africa
Many local governments in the region are joining global clean energy initiatives like the CoM SSA, of which signatories voluntarily commit to implementing climate and energy actions in their communities. By investing in energy efficiency, cities can achieve substantial energy cost savings throughout their facilities, demonstrate energy and environmental leadership, and raise public awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency.
A good example was brought by Nilton Gomes, CoM SSA coordinator fromRibeira Grande de Santiago (RGS) municipality,“the City of RGS is working on an energy-efficient project in their town hall building with the support of CoM SSA that will lead to the reduction of consumption of energy by 39% which would save the City around 2000 euros per month - which they can redirect towards other actions to support their community”. The project will also use the surplus and energy stored in the batteries to illuminate several of the city’s heritage areas and invest the energy savings in initiatives to improve people’s quality of life.
Ernest Dione, fromtheTyCCAO programme, emphasised that “most of a building's CO2 emission takes place in the production of construction materials. The use of local bio-sourced materials contributes significantly to the storage of atmospheric carbon because it does not involve much transformation”.
In his presentation, Dione mentioned that innovative and sustainable building materials can help cities reach carbon neutrality since the construction and building sector is at the very heart of energy efficiency and the reduction of GHG emissions.
Some of those materials are locally produced, however, Africa also uses imported equipment. “It is important to implement adequate labelling and quality systems to ensure that only energy-efficient goods enter the African market,” added Monica Maduekwe
CoM SSA signatories and the link between efficiency and climate change adaptation
Mitigation is necessary to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, while adaptation is essential to reduce the damages from climate change that cannot be avoided. Single policies and measures can be designed to help tackle both mitigation and adaptation. While energy efficiency has frequently been referred to and used as a tool for carbon mitigation, it also can serve an important role in climate adaptation in most cases, as is happening in Cabo Verde. Efficiency measures have proven to be the most cost-effective way to adapt to high temperatures while reducing energy waste, saving money, and affordably expanding the use of renewable energy resources in public buildings. Experts agreed that energy efficiency is a necessary approach that cities must take to solve the climate crisis.
The discussions during the session on adaptation to climate change through energy efficiency also brought to light the different strategies that can be applied to enhance energy efficiency beyond public infrastructure, from architectural conception, and the use of sustainable materials to technology. The rapid urbanisation of sub-Saharan Africa has been characterised by entrenched poverty and joblessness, but there are many opportunities to do things differently. Solutions based on energy efficiency, technology, and new business models may realise a leapfrog to smarter cities.
The concept of a smart city implies compact and integrated cities with resources and systems that are sustainable and where inclusivity and safety are key; the panel of experts agreed on the need to highlight that local governments could lead the path but, as Monica Maduekwe mentioned, “we cannot talk about smart cities without talking about smart habits, we need to change the behaviour of the people to be more sustainable”. The contribution to the fight against climate change and to gain a better quality of life should come from everyone.