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UNEP uses science to help inform and set standards across a range of environmental issues. One major emerging challenge is the climate, peace and security nexus inextricably linked with the growing number of displaced populations. Africa alone is home to more than 40m displaced people, a figure that has doubled since 2016. 77% are internally displaced.
At the political level, pressure to prioritise climate and environmental mobility is coming from the Signatory States to the Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change. Responding to the realities of growing displacement requires new ways of thinking and acting, building collaborations between the UN agencies mandated to deal with humanitarian and environmental challenges, as well as the relevant national Ministries. UNEP and the UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre (UNEP-CCC) are using research and evidence to help design new delivery models on the response side to both emerging and protracted displacement.
This work is needed as the mandated humanitarian agencies party to the Global Platform of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement (GPA) have limited technical capacities on issues related to energy, climate and environment and do not have accreditation with the major sources of global climate finance, e.g. the Green Climate Fund (GCF) or Global Environment Facility (GEF) including the Adaptation Fund. Yet there is a need for displaced populations to benefit from such funds, to enable progressive host countries such as Uganda to implement their own plans, including its pioneering “Sustainable Energy Response Plan (SERP) for Refugees and Host Communities”.
In partnership with Last Mile Climate, IKEA Foundation and the Global GPA Coordination Unit, UNEP-CCC is a co-pledger on three multistakeholder ‘Climate Action Partnerships’, which broadly speak to the Triple Planetary Crisis as it manifests in situations of protracted displacement. Specifically, these are:
- SOLCO (the Solar-Electric Cooking Partnership): which aims to transition more than 250,000 displaced and host community households to solar-electric cooking by 2027, leveraging a minimum of $100 million in private and public funding and finance.
- EcoAdapt: focused on climate adaptation through nature-based solutions, specifically in refugee-hosting areas. It emphasises ecosystem-based adaptation, combining indigenous knowledge with scientific advancements for reforestation and regeneration.
- FairRecycling: which aims to revolutionise waste management in displacement settings. It focuses on creating sustainable, green jobs, and advancing environmental health through efficient waste recycling and upcycling.
We start 2024 with the wind in our sails on this agenda, following the launch of the Global eCooking Coalition (GeCCo) at COP28, which is the umbrella initiative for the SOLCO pledge, and submission of the three multistakeholder pledges to the GRF. In particular, this year promises to be pivotal for SOLCO, with the International Energy Agency organising a Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa in May in Paris and investment proposals being developed by UNEP-CCC and Last Mile Climate in Uganda. The Governments of Nigeria and Zambia have also endorsed SOLCO. In Uganda, we’re able to build on the work completed under the GPA Roadmaps for Energy Access in Displacement Settings (READS) programme which identifies specific project ideas and partnerships for investment, including on solar e-cooking.
Project design and finance will be a key focus. UNEP-CCC is already working with GPA partners Mercy Corps and the Government of Uganda to design a blended financing mechanism for SOLCO, which will also build on the GPA’s analytical work on e-waste management. Broadly speaking, the aim is to crowd-in various sources of public and private capital, both local and global, to de-risk and lower the cost of household borrowing for solar e-cooking technologies. Where public grant funding is used, the purpose is to kick-start the market for these game-changing technologies, thus having a catalytic and economy-wide transformative impact, including the deployment of climate finance.
UNEP and UNEP-CCC have the experience and skills to support sister UN agencies and countries to access climate finance for displaced populations and nearby communities. For example, UNEP and UNHCR collaborated to support the Government of Tanzania to submit a 19m USD proposal for grant funding to pay for ecosystem rehabilitation in the refugee-hosting Kigoma region, a first of its kind. The proposal was approved by the GCF Board in October 2023. On the technical side, UNEP-CCC has provided technical assistance through novel research and advisory to UNHCR since 2017 that has helped identify the main issues, needs and opportunities for clean energy and influenced the UNHCR energy strategy (2019-2025). Engaging the private sector has been key. For example, the GPA has published Tips for Private Sector Engagement for Energy Access in Humanitarian Settings, reflecting on the main barriers to successful multi-stakeholder collaboration.
UNEP is well placed to support countries that have progressive plans or ambitions, where there is an enabling environment for the implementation of climate change projects. We have seen that in the design and implementation of energy and environment projects for displaced persons and their host communities, it is necessary to engage Ministries of Energy, Environment and Finance, and those responsible for internal displacement and/or Refugee Affairs. Often these are disconnected entities, with limited coordination. However, through our diverse portfolio of work, including the NDC Action project, as well as collaboration with GPA partners, UNEP is well positioned to use its mandate, help convene stakeholders and deliver on this agenda. Specifically, we:
- Provide technical advice to mandated humanitarian agencies and countries in dealing with situations of protracted displacement, as it relates to local environmental risks and impacts.
- Work in close partnership with mandated humanitarian agencies party to the GPA, to help secure large-scale climate financing for specific mitigation and adaptation projects, requested or approved by host governments.
- Advise mandated humanitarian agencies on business models and financing options for clean energy and climate change adaptation projects.
- Provide science-based knowledge products on the topic of climate change and energy in situations of forced displacement.
If we can move the needle on key indicators, as a result of helping to design new collaborative delivery models within the inter-agency GPA platform, then we will contribute to set a new standard and pave a promising way forward.
This article was written by James Haselip and Jérôme Malavelle. James is Senior Advisor on Climate and Energy at the UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre and represents UNEP in the GPA Steering Group. Jérôme coordinates the NDC Action programme in the Global Climate Action unit in UNEP’s Energy & Climate Branch and manages the NDC Action Project.
Last updated: 26/01/2024