The Program on Conflict, Climate Change and Green Development is a new initiative bringing together expertise in conflict resolution, climate change and renewable energy. We are developing new thinking and inter-disciplinary approaches to help address the growing overlap between the impacts of climate change and violent conflict. Housed in UC-Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab (RAEL), the Program is focused on promoting and implementing renewable energy as a tool for peace building and conflict prevention in fragile conflict-risk and post-conflict settings. The international community can support local peace-building through the role that renewable energy can play in education, business, and sustainable water and agricultural systems.
The Program launched in 2016 based on a recognition that the countries and regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia – were also those most vulnerable to cycles of conflict. With a rise in violence around the world, record high numbers of forcibly displaced persons and global humanitarian expenditures, the relevant international institutions working on conflict prevention/resolution are struggling to keep up and have yet to meaningfully adapt to this new reality. Meanwhile, the global response to climate change has been overwhelmingly focused on the worst polluting countries rather than the worst affected: less than 10% of all global climate financing goes to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia combined. By integrating climate solutions with conflict prevention efforts, we believe better solutions are possible.
Renewable energy offers a unique entry point for our work. There has been an amazing revolution in renewable energy in recent years, marked by dramatic reductions in hardware costs and improved technology. Approximately .75 cents of ever dollar spent on global climate financing goes towards renewable energy, making it the leading tool in the global response to climate change. These same vulnerable regions have some of the highest rates of energy poverty in the world, but are not yet benefitting from the renewable energy revolution. Pay-as-you-go energy services and community mini-grids are both areas of RAEL expertise and global engagement, and provide opportunities for our Program to contribute immediately to bringing peaceful, local solutions to areas in crisis.
Conflict and crisis-risk settings generally lack the financing mechanisms and investment vehicles that have spurred renewable energy growth elsewhere in the world. Energy infrastructure is often unstable or lacking altogether in such contexts, and internationally supported humanitarian programs – which usually operate on short-term funding cycles, discouraging the higher up front costs of renewable energy - frequently rely on expensive, dirty and sometimes inconsistent diesel supply chains to power diesel generators. Transitioning to renewable energy in such settings can offer both short-term humanitarian cost-savings while creating longer-term energy infrastructure and building blocks for peace.