Household surveys to bridge climate data gaps in African cities

Published: 28 Mar 2022
Adaptation Mitigation
Household surveys to bridge climate data gaps in African cities

Cities need detailed information about their emissions and climate risks to plan for transformative climate action. In the case of Abuja (Nigeria), where data is like gold dust, obtaining this information can be a costly and daunting task, but household surveys can yield high-quality results and provide crucial insights into how emissions are generated and how climate change impacts communities on the ground.

Time and again, cities are recognised as contributing the most to global emissions, even if the present contribution of Sub-Saharan Africa represents a minimal share. However, as the region is amongst the fastest-growing in the world, the emissions of African cities could as much as triple in the coming decade if they continue on their current, carbon-intensive development pathway. Therefore, undertaking robust climate action planning now is essential to limiting future emissions.

The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) joined the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) in January 2021. In doing so, it committed to developing a Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plan (SEACAP), a key document that sets the strategies, plans and actions to reduce emissions and build stronger, sustainable cities. But as the SEACAP includes an inventory of emissions and details current and future climate hazards affecting the most vulnerable communities, it needs to be grounded in good quality data.

Challenges of obtaining data to inform climate action planning

Data is difficult to come by in many African cities; it may simply not exist or – when it does exist – it is either not extensive, not in a usable format or not accessible. There are ways to get around this. For instance, detailed desktop research can yield good results and conducting workshops with key municipal officials can often fill in the information gaps. However, this is not enough.

How cities can use household surveys to inform their baseline data

After substantial research and workshops in AMAC, there were still several gaps in the data needed to understand the city’s emissions, energy usage and climate risks. With support from GIZ and ICLEI Africa, the Council embarked on a city-wide survey to understand where emissions are coming from, how people are accessing energy, what climate hazards are affecting the area and who is the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Surveys conducted in 637 households across 50 of the 250 communities in the city’s 12 wards provided detailed results.

The data also revealed insightful information about how people access energy and cook: 71% of households have access to clean energy, but 55% still rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. Two-thirds of households rely on Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or other sources of energy. Almost everyone surveyed (94%) stated that they are willing to pay for the transition to clean cooking should it become available to them.

The survey also highlighted that extreme hot days, heat waves, rainstorms and flooding are the climate hazards mostly affecting the citizens, and these hazards are getting worse every year. It also found that there are more population groups than originally anticipated who feel they are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including low-income households, indigenous people, women and children, displaced people and the elderly.

These details are crucial for AMAC to consider when setting targets and actions for the city going forward.

Surveys as a way to support SEACAP development

In the case of AMAC, the household survey not only answered the city’s questions about where the emissions are coming from and how energy is being consumed in households, but it also gave a key snapshot into how climate change is already affecting communities on the ground. The survey also provided people living in the area an opportunity to make their experiences heard, bringing to sharp focus the local reality.

The household survey results and aggregated data from the Proxy Data Tool is helping AMAC to understand deeply its emissions profile, the pattern of household energy consumption and the climate risks facing its citizens. Armed with this information, Abuja has found a way to bring the experience of its people into the SEACAP, thereby helping to identify actions that will transform the way the citizens of Abuja cook, access electricity, dispose of their waste, and move around the city.

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