The global climate crisis is complex and multilayered, with displaced people facing disproportionate harm. Refugees and Internally Displaced Populations are often the hardest hit by climate change increasing protection risks and creating challenges to deliver access to sustainable energy, agricultural livelihoods, water, health, and shelter.
Global and national policy commitments have sought to change this dynamic and support political and organizational change to deliver long-term solutions on climate action for displaced people. For example, the UNHCR Climate Action Strategy, the Clean Energy Challenge and the Sustainable Energy Response Plan (SERP) for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda. Several refugee hosting countries have also developed policies which support refugee livelihoods and access to jobs for displaced people.
However, despite these commitments, progress both within humanitarian organizations and climate action on the ground has been slow. New analysis and policy support is now needed to overcome the governance barriers and improve stakeholder engagement, most notably with the private sector, driven by progressive political action to address the impacts of climate change for displaced people and the communities that host them.
To this end, the Climate Action at the Last Mile project convenes stakeholders from across the climate, sustainable energy, development, and humanitarian communities to drive forward new progressive action on addressing the climate crisis in displacement settings.
Specifically, the project convenes and aligns key actors around ambitious scalable energy commitments ahead of the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) to be hosted in December in 2023. The Global Platform for Action on Sustainable Energy Solutions in Displacement Settings (GPA) hosted at UNITAR, delivers the programme in partnership with Last Mile Climate, who leads private-sector engagements and partnership building work. The UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre (UNEP CCC) leads national stakeholder engagements with host governments, providing technical inputs and advice to the project consortia.
The issues facing displaced people when it comes to access to sustainable energy, and proposed solutions, are discussed in a Policy Brief on “Integrating displaced populations into national climate change policy and planning” published by UNEP in September 2023 in partnership with IOM, the NDC Partnership and the GPA.
The wider challenge
Broadly speaking, progress on the SDGs in humanitarian contexts has been extremely limited, especially for SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 7 on sustainable energy. More than 94% of displaced households in camps do not have access to electricity and humanitarian agencies spend over $108 million on polluting diesel fuel per year, emitting more than 194,000 tCO2. Fuel poverty among displaced people can lead to unsustainable deforestation and a range of risks to human life and health, including Household Air Pollution, conflict with local communities, and violent crimes committed against the refugee women and children who walk to gather wood.
Solar energy technologies at various scales and applications have the potential to accelerate access to energy, especially in off-grid areas of Africa where the feasibility, supply and cost of standalone systems brings them within reach of even low-income households. Further, advances in mini-grid technology, battery storage, efficient appliances, and smart grids, serve to accelerate access by reducing the need for excess generation capacity, thereby lowering the capital cost of new power systems.
Action is needed to support progressive policies and design sustainable business models for humanitarian energy, the private-sector, and humanitarian agencies in working together to deliver low-carbon and climate resilient access to clean energy for displaced people. The Climate Action at the Last Mile aims to facilitate such action.
The project is implemented in partnership with the Ikea Foundation.