We must act now to stop the COVID crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

By Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

We must act now to stop the Covid crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause major disruptions to societies and economies around the world, and has dealt a worrying blow to years of hard-won progress in reducing the number of people in Africa who lack access to electricity. For seven years in a row, the number of Africans living without electricity has steadily decreased, thanks to efforts from governments, businesses and civil society. But this year, it is set to rise by 13 million amid the turmoil brought by the pandemic, according to IEA analysis. The worst effects are being felt in countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger. By putting energy services out of reach of more and more people, the crisis threatens to deepen their difficulties and those of economies across Africa.

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Africa state of the climate report: an urgent call for climate-related development planning

By Blair Trewin, Lead Author of the World Meteorological Organization’s 2019 State of the Climate report for Africa

Tropical Cyclone Idai approaching the Mozambique coast on 14 March 2019 (Source: NASA)

Africa is highly vulnerable to the influence of the climate. The continent contains many of the world’s least developed countries, who have limited capacity to mitigate against the impacts of extreme events. The continent is also highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture which is at the mercy of fluctuations in rainfall from season to season. Amongst the most vulnerable areas are the semi-arid regions of the Sahel and the Greater Horn of Africa; many of these regions also suffer from unstable security situations, and in the worst cases, drought and conflict can combine to trigger famine, as in Somalia in 2011-12.

Like the rest of the world, Africa is warming. 2019 was likely the third-warmest year on record for the continent, after 2010 and 2016. Over the last 30 years, the continent has been warming at a rate of 0.3 °C to 0.4 °C per decade, a similar rate to the global average for land areas. 2019 was an especially warm year in southern Africa, where parts of South Africa, Namibia and Angola had temperatures more than 2 °C above the 1981-2010 average.

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Carbon border adjustment: a powerful tool if paired with a just energy transition

By Randolph Bell, Director, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center; Richard Morningstar Chair for Global Energy Security and Elena Benaim, Intern, Atlantic Council Global Energy Centre  

Carbon border adjustment (CBA) policies are gaining momentum on both sides of the Atlantic. They were proposed as a key element in the European Green Deal and as part of US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s climate plan. But how do they work? Carbon border adjustment mechanisms tax imported goods based on their carbon footprint with the aim of limiting emissions leakage and levelling the playing field for domestic industries that produce goods with lower greenhouse gas emission footprints than imports that may be cheaper but have higher greenhouse gas footprints.

There are a number of technical challenges to overcome in implementing a carbon border adjustment policy, including whether to peg it to a domestic price on carbon, which sectors to apply the tax, and how to ensure accurate and transparent data on embodied carbon. But one major concern is that the policy could have negative consequences for the economies of developing countries by cutting their export revenue and/or impeding the development of new export-oriented industries. Developing countries might argue that the policy runs counter to the Paris Agreement’s bottom-up, nationally determined contributions, and could push them to cut emissions more than what they pledged. Carbon border adjustment could also run afoul of the Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle that developing countries do not share the same responsibility as developed countries in addressing climate and environmental issues.

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How can island states reimagine tourism for green recovery?

Riad Meddeb, Senior Principal Advisor for Small Island Developing States, UNDP


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide. This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, Molinere Beauséjour Marine. Credit: Grenada Tourism Authority

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have experienced great success in expanding their tourism industries, particularly over the past 10 years. The industry is an economic lifeline and driver of development for many SIDS. Their rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems attracted around 44 million visitors in 2019. However, global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated SIDS’ economies. Compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), export revenues from tourism represent about 9% of SIDS economies. In countries like St. Lucia and Palau, tourism revenues make up 98 and 88 percent of total exports respectively. It is a vital source of revenue for community livelihoods, disaster recovery, biodiversity and cultural heritage preservation.

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Strengthening the climate resilience of cities through cross-border co-operation

By Richard Clarke, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

The southern nations of West Africa are beginning to experience the second and shorter of their rainy seasons, whilst those countries further north are seeing the end of theirs. For many the happiness of seeing these rains is mixed with anxieties from memories past and current realities. Exceptionally heavy seasonal rainfall in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2017 saw several major rivers break their banks, causing destruction of houses, bridges, roads and crops, wrecking livelihoods and displacing vast swathes of the population.

In recent weeks, floods have severely hit parts of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria, leading to the death of at least 107 people and affecting hundreds of thousands. In Senegal, a state of emergency has been declared following heavy rainfalls and the death of four citizens, while in Chad nearly 200,000 people have been affected. Yet again, the urgent need for immediate action to mitigate and alleviate the effects of climate change has been exposed.

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EU climate tax could benefit oil exporters

By Håvard Halland, Senior Economist at the OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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In energy-intensive sectors, a carbon border tax could shift the geography of investment.

For a green coronavirus recovery, an effective global price on carbon remains as important as ever before. However, until governments can agree on the severity of the risk posed by climate change, a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions seems a remote prospect. Nonetheless, the “carbon border adjustment mechanism” that the EU is considering could have similar effects on capital allocation – albeit on a smaller scale.

The EU’s ambitious new climate goals will require emissions reductions not only in the energy sector, but also in energy-intensive sectors such as heavy industries, metals, petrochemicals, cement, and fertilizer. To ensure a level playing field between EU companies and foreign firms not subject to EU emissions targets, the EU may implement a border tax on carbon-intensive imports. The combination of high carbon taxes within the EU and a carbon border tax would present energy-intensive industries with a new set of locational choices.

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The health of the planet and intra-generational equity – lessons learnt from a pandemic

By Milindo Chakrabarti, Professor, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana and Visiting Fellow, RIS, New Delhi, and Jhalak Aggarwal, Post-Graduate Student, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Covid-climate-enviromentAmidst the disorder ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of the virus has curtailed human destruction of the environment. During lockdowns, less cars moved around and less companies dumped their pollutants. At a time when virtually the whole world was under lockdown, “daily global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% by early April 2020 compared with the mean 2019 levels, just under half from changes in surface transport. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by 26% on average” notes a study by the Global Carbon Project published in May. Unfortunately, the trend is reversing with the easing of lockdown measures. The same study predicts that by the end of the year the estimated decline in global carbon emissions will be around 4% if restrictions are lifted, and potentially higher at around 7% if restrictions persist until the end of 2020. Furthermore, to revive and stabilise the economy, attempts are underway to relax environmental regulations and help create new livelihood opportunities to replace those destroyed by the pandemic.

If there is a link between the COVID-19 crisis and emissions declines, reversely, is there a link between the climate crisis and the emergence and spread of the Coronavirus? Continue reading

How COVID-19 is changing the opportunities for oil and gas-led growth

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By Glada Lahn and Siân Bradley, Senior Research Fellows, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


shutterstock_680622253For oil and gas exporters, COVID-19 has caused a downturn like no other. From early 2020, lockdowns sent global energy demand plummeting by over a quarter. Combined with the Saudi-Russia price war, oil prices hit their lowest levels in over two decades, down to less than $20 a barrel in April. Without strategic reserve filling, the collapse would have been even steeper. As lockdowns eased and June’s OPEC-plus agreement to cut production boosted oil prices (around $40/b in June), producer countries could be forgiven for hoping that the worst is over. However, as the pandemic hit, the fossil fuel market was already facing a grim prognosis.

From boom and bust to… bust

Five years ago, Chatham House began exploring what decarbonisation might mean for extractives-led development. To achieve the Paris Agreement’s commitment to limiting global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C, all credible pathways will require a radical reduction in fossil fuel use. With 76 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and close to 90% of CO2 emissions coming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, the implications for these markets are profound. We are no longer talking about a cycle of boom and bust, but about structural decline. Continue reading

Middle East and North Africa: The challenge of a long-term strategy for oil exporting countries

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By Rahmat Poudineh, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Oil refinery plant in Qatar

There is no single successful strategy to shield oil-exporting countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from the long-term risks of an oil price crash, exposing them to serious long-term challenges.

Diversification for example, works only when it reduces risk by pooling uncorrelated income streams and sectors. If countries diversify only into sectors that rely on hydrocarbon infrastructure and where relationships (tangible and non-tangible) exist across fossil and non-fossil fuel businesses, they cannot build resilience. On the other hand, if they diversify into substantively different areas that have little in common with their current primary industry, which is the core of their comparative advantage, they run the risk of not being competitive. Moreover, the cost of reducing the long-term risks and increasing resilience of their core sector is to accept lower expected return on existing hydrocarbon assets, for instance, by investing in measures that align their hydrocarbon sector with low carbon scenarios. This lowers the overall return but reduces the risk of disruption in the long run. Continue reading

Restoring the dreams of our children: why NGOs need more futures thinking

By Claire Leigh, Director of Child Rights and Governance, Save the Children UK, and Peter Glenday, Director of Programmes and Research, School of International Futures (SOIF)

shutterstock_396707761In September 2019 Greta Thunberg made an emotional speech to world leaders at the UN, climaxing in the now-famous accusation: “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.” That line will rightly haunt us adults as we move through what is widely regarded as the make-or-break decade for both the climate crisis and the UN’s global development goals. Now, with the COVID-19 crisis upon us, there is even more reason to accept Thunberg’s charge of a woeful lack of foresight on the part of this generation of leaders.

Our apparent inability to make good decisions informed by possible futures lies at the heart of the intergenerational crisis of which Thunberg has become the voice. By displacing the costs of our current prosperity – the resource and ecological degradation, the worsening climate conditions – onto future generations, we are quite literally stealing from the future to give to the present. The result is a future which may be ‘unliveable’ for millions of children, as reported by the WHO and UNICEF.

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