Renewable energy is key to reducing climate-changing emissions under a global climate deal after governments in 2015 pledged to hold temperature rise to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial times, and ideally to 1.5°C.
“The burning of dirty fuels increasingly impacts poor people, particularly women and girls, who are in the midst of humanitarian crises,” said Sven Harmeling, head of CARE International’s climate advocacy arm.
While the technology has not advanced far enough to make a full swap viable, some solar projects are already under way in the field and aid workers expect many more to follow.
Engineer Per-Erik Eriksson, from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Sweden Innovation Unit, said the group is making a substantial effort to use renewable energy.
“However, it is not certain that such a transformation will save us money, given the current initial costs for renewable energy infrastructure. Our operations are emergency-orientated, and therefore implicitly short term,” he said.
“The investment for renewable energy solutions is always higher than for diesel generator solutions, and so the savings only come over a number of years,” Eriksson said from Haiti, where he is testing solar-powered air conditioning.
Aid groups say operations also rely on diesel generators since many local workers or volunteers already know how to use them, whereas solar energy would be costly and require specialised knowledge.
An October report by the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change said renewable energy would need to supply 70%-85% of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5°C limit, compared with about 25% now.
More than 190 countries are meeting in Poland through December 14 to hammer out rules that will enable the Paris accord to be put into practice from 2020, and spur countries to strengthen their current climate action plans.
Thomson Reuters Foundation