Poverty Alleviation

Solar Electric Poverty Alleviation Africa TckTckTck Climate

Courtesy: Solar Electric Light Fund, 2009

The very first UN Millenium Development Goal is “Energy & Poverty Alleviation.” There is a reason for this: access to affordable energy is the key to unlocking a series of solutions that can effectively lift a community out of poverty — powering municipal water and irrigation systems, improving sanitation, and illuminating homes and schoolhouses so women can work safely and children can study even after nightfall. The result is a more educated population, lower birth rates and healthier living conditions.
In a recent talk, Bill Clinton said:

I am convinced that if we do this energy thing right, it will generate not only enormous numbers of new jobs and economic prosperity for countries at every income level. It will also cause people to re-imagine how they do everything. And therefore the funds will flow naturally to healthcare and …a demand for higher levels of education. Work is the best social program, and I think …saving the planet from the threat of climate change will create more work, more jobs, more ideas and more positive interdependence than anything else we can do.

Sadly, climate change is not waiting for these great solutions to poverty to be implemented. A team led by Purdue University researchers examined the potential economic influence of adverse climate events, such as heat waves, drought and heavy rains, will hit the least developed countries the hardest. Urban workers in Bangladesh, Mexico and Zambia were found to be the most at risk, in particular by raising the price of staple foods, such as grains, that are important to poor households in developing countries.

Poverty Risk World

Map: UNEP/GRID Arendal

Quick Facts:

  • 2.7 billion struggle to survive on less than two dollars per day. [UN]
  • 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. [UNICEF]
  • In developing countries, as many as 227 million hectares of land – an area the size of Western Europe
    – has been sold or leased since 2001, telling a story of rapidly increasing pressure on land – a natural
    resource upon which the food security of millions of people living in poverty depends…The land deals
    are very often intended to produce for foreign food and biofuel markets [Oxfam]

Quick Quotes:

  • “In order to overcome energy poverty in developing countries, off-grid and decentralised renewable
    energy is often best suited to provide energy services cost-effectively. Also, highly efficient modern
    biomass stoves are the best technologies to improve substantially the health impact of traditional biomass burning of no more than maximum 20% energy conversion efficiency. This will also reduce pressure on local biomass resources.” -IPCC Renewable Energy Report
  • “Forget about making poverty history. Climate change will make poverty permanent.” –Nazmul Chowdhury
  • “Solar is inevitable not because of carbon but because it is the most effective way to reach the
    un-electrified poor.” -Jigar Shaw, 2010
  • “Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world- access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.” –Sir Nicholas Stern
  • “We cannot confront the massive challenges of poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental destruction unless we address issues of population and reproductive health.” –Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

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Quick Facts on Poverty Alleviation

  • The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted by co-ordinated global action.  >> UN, 2013