Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions (GPA)
Markus Leick, Policy Officer, International Energy Policy, Foreign Office
Thomas Fohgrub, Coordinator, GPA Sustainable Energy Solutions for Situations of Displacement
LinkedIn: Humanitarian Energy Practitioners
Introduction to the project
Since January 2018. The original project was successfully completed by January 2019.
The work of the newly established Global Plan of Action (GPA) Coordination Unit is ongoing and requires additional support to continue and increase its impact.
Strengthening refugees’, host communities’ and organisations’ access to sustainable energy through advocacy, coordination, knowledge and data sharing, capacity building and consensus for new solutions.
This good practice for universal access to energy promotes the creation of local industry and entrepreneurship, raising the standard of living for recipients and supports communities in their economic and social development.
Electricity is also required in hospitals and clinics, schools and safe-spaces, for refugee business and livelihood development, and also, in the administrative operations of humanitarian agencies and their partners. Increasing energy services for refugees reduces the impact on national systems which are often unable to cope with the large population influxes. It also greatly reduces impacts on the environment and natural ecosystem, minimising conflict and competition for scarce resources.
Developing new partnerships and mainstreaming energy into humanitarian programming increases involvement of traditional and non-traditional actors in providing energy goods and services which spreads the response burden, expanding the support base and responsibility sharing.
Energy poverty leads to insecurity, reduced development opportunities, high risk coping mechanisms, in addition to serious health problems and environmental degradation, with children and women disproportionately affected. Indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuel accounts for nearly ten times as many deaths as malaria each year.
The adoption of good practices by humanitarian and other actors in delivering effective energy services enhances the capacity of refugees to lead healthier, more productive lives with increased opportunity for livelihood development and education. These activities include market-based approaches and cash-based energy access interventions for improved protection, dignity, and energy-related social, environmental, and economic benefits to displaced people. Promoting inclusion of refugees into energy programs of governments and development actors improves integration of refugees into local and national systems, enhancing opportunities for sustained self-reliance
The primary goal of the project was to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy (Sustainable Development Goal #7) in displacement settings, so that “every person affected by conflict or natural disaster has access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services by 2030.”
The German Federal Foreign Office funded the project out of its climate and energy fund. Additional momentum was created by the work on the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees and by the pledge of UNHCR to become carbon neutral by 2020.
Main activities of the Good Practice
UNITAR managed to coordinate and mobilize support for the endeavour of holistically assessing the sector’s challenges and drafting recommendations so that 13 major institutions and organizations in the sector drafted the GPA in less than 6 months.
The GPA Framework for Action, available here, identified the main challenges and provides 66 recommendations for concrete action. It provides a collaborative framework for achieving the objective by promoting the humanitarian sector's transition to renewable energy, which will increase the efficiency and reliability of services and reduce costs and carbon emissions.
Hosted by UNITAR, the GPA Coordination Unit was established as an outcome of this process. Today, the Coordination Unit galvanises collective action across a growing humanitarian energy community, which includes GPA partner organisations and other actors, towards the GPA's realisation (see e.g. innovative finance mechanisms and a project marshalling several agencies to work collaboratively in Djibouti)
The GPA is categorized in five thematic working areas that address current challenges and barriers to achieving access to sustainable energy for displaced people. The working areas are: coordination and planning, policy and advocacy, innovative financing, technical expertise and capacity building, and data. Working groups around each of these thematic areas are facilitated by experts of the Global Plan of Action Steering Group.
GPA Steering Group:
- UNEP DTU
- Clean Cooking Alliance
- Practical Action
- Mercy Corps
Challenges and how they were overcome
Current energy practices in situations of displacement are often inefficient, polluting, expensive, inadequate and costly. Given the complex nature of humanitarian situations and the difficulties of integrating sustainable energy solutions into the programme cycle, systematic change is required to address the following challenges:
- Energy is not prioritised in the humanitarian system.
- Displaced people are often not included in national or international energy access agendas.
- Existing funding mechanisms do not support the sustainable transition to renewables.
- Expertise and capacity to implement humanitarian energy solutions is limited.
- Data on humanitarian energy needs and solutions is limited and not widely shared.
The GPA Coordination Unit has brought together almost 300 different stakeholders, including humanitarians, donors, financiers, private enterprise and academia, who have committed to address energy needs in displacement settings by working together to deliver an agreed set of actions across the five working areas identified in the GPA Framework. New actors have joined, with the skills and capacity to deliver actions by resolving issues and creating solutions. Huge support continues to be provided by partners who advocate, within their organisations and within the wider humanitarian community, to mainstream energy into humanitarian programming.
Results of the Good Practice
- Renewable energy is increasingly being mainstreamed into the humanitarian response, leading to reduced protection and health risks and increased education and livelihood opportunities, as well as lowering environmental footprints.
- Humanitarian actors are adopting improved practices to increase access to sustainable energy solutions in their operations and are including energy access for refugees into their national and global programmes.
- Humanitarian agencies are taking steps to reduce costs and environmental impact of their energy use leading to more effective and energy-efficient responses.
- Private sector actors are more aware of best practices when working in humanitarian contexts, including the protection mandate and how to engage with the sector.