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Photo by: UNFCCC/Regional Collaboration Centre Lomé

The way energy is generated and consumed in cities in Sub-Saharan Africa must be transformed to ensure continued development and help rein in greenhouse gas emissions. This was the key conclusion reach by experts meeting at a regional climate and energy conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon in May, aimed at identifying innovative solutions for low-carbon urbanization. 

Cities account for more than a third of energy consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region’s high rate of urbanization (4.5 percent annually) is expected to push that figure to more than three-quarters of consumption by 2040 with a corresponding increase in urban-energy-related GHG emissions of 280 percent. 

The Regional Conference on Sustainable Cities, Energy and Climate brought together about 100 experts and professionals from Sub-Saharan Africa to examine key aspects of energy and climate in the urban context: best practices, partnerships, business models, financing, renewable energy and energy efficiency, among other topics. 

The conference was organized, with the support of the Cameroon Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, by UN-HABITAT in collaboration with l’Institute de la Phrancophonie pour le Développement Durable and the Regional Collaboration Center of Lomé, a partnership of the Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat.

Climate change and urbanization are recognized as central considerations in sustainable energy plans in Sub-Saharan African. In considering how to fuel their future development, countries are also looking at how their climate goals, including greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set under  national climate action plans (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), can be strengthened. 

The experts meeting in Yaoundé took stock of the progress made in energy modeling and design for eco-buildings, as well as of development of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions for sustainable cities. Recommendations are to:

  • Shape buildings according to climatic conditions (e.g. compact form with courtyard to retain cold air for hot and arid regions; narrow shape to maximize natural light and cross-ventilation for hot and humid climates);
  • Ensure natural ventilation by use of roof vents, and openings, thermal chimneys and clerestory windows;
  • Reduce buildings’ carbon footprint by using locally available construction materials and consider recyclable and re-usable materials with low toxic emissions;
  • Integrate solar energy, such as photovoltaic and solar water heaters in residential buildings, and use wind, biogas and other renewable energy systems for neighborhood and multi-use buildings;
  • Incorporate energy saving appliances in the building design (e.g. efficient bulbs, light level sensors, occupancy and motion sensors);
  • Design provisions for waste separation and on-site sorting to encourage reduction, recycling and reuse of waste;
  • Avoid urban zoning by combining economic, administrative and residential activities, in order to reduce the need to travel and ensure the use of public space;
  • Design street patterns and networks that connect the different parts of the city and eases access to goods and services;
  • Encourage shift from energy intensive modes of transportation to walking, cycling and use of public transport. Promote the use of hybrid and electric cars.

Experts agreed on the urgent need to design and enforce a supportive policy framework and on the need to expand and consolidate regional collaboration and international partnerships. This demand was reiterated by H.E. Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Jean Claude Mbwentchou, in his closing remarks.

Capacity-building and education for climate action were also recognized as imperative, with particular emphasis on making younger generations more knowledgeable about environmental challenges and available technological solutions.

With this in mind, a five-day training course for 40 young people was organized in conjunction with the regional conference. The training focused on renewable energy household technologies. 

The regional conference closed with the issuance of certificates to the young trainees, who presented self-built solar lamps.

Photo Crédits: UNFCCC/Regional Collaboration Centre Lomé

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