National economic development programmes and GHG mitigation strategies in developing countries

Youba Sokona

Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde (ENDA-TM), Dakar, Senegal

1 Introduction

Increasingly, it is being acknowledged there that there is no need for more scientific evidence about the deleterious effects of anthropic emissions before taking action. Moreover, there is no longer any doubt that any perspective for the mitigation or stabilization of these gases can only be envisaged from a global approach. The most privileged nations, just as the least favoured nations, find themselves faced with a specific emergency period of immeasurable limits. In other words, this phenomenon can result in irreversible consequences or incur such high costs in being resolved that we must not wait before taking precautionary measures on a collective scale.

When presented as such, this environmental issue is far too limited to its "direct effects" which, for most Third World countries, are only a small part of a much larger problem, and a crucial aspect is the relationship between environment and development.

The Third World countries, and particularly those of sub-Saharan Africa, confronted with an endemic crisis, might be tempted to treat their problems linked to anthropic emissions by paralipsis. But this could hardly be held against them, for they are assailed by a number of concurrent problems of proportions until now unheard of on our planet. However, it is not preposterous to think that sustained reflection on the planet's environmental problems such as greenhouse gas emissions could enhance their capacity to solve their own problems. Provided, however, that they have real power in decision-making and in taking action.

2 Main national economic, social and political priorities

Is there still any need to mention the priorities or the urgency at the economic, social and political scale for each of the African nations? At any rate, whatever main lines are identified, the key issue which remains is: What to do and how to do it, in order to make everyday life better for the greatest number of people, and to improve both the standard of living and the environment of the poorest and the marginalized? Indeed, the persistence of poverty and the accentuation of social and spatial disparities place many African countries in an increasingly explosive social, economic and political context. In their search for solutions to this basic fact, African countries, notably as they were preparing for the Rio conference during certain consulting sessions, defined and specified the priority axes of their mutual concerns, which are:

food security;

energy security;

sustainability of economic growth and employment;

security and stability of financial resources;

improvement of the quality of life and of the habitat.

These concerns are reiterated in most of the national reports prepared for the Earth Summit. Each of these major areas of interest acts directly or indirectly on the others, and at the same time is influenced by the others' effects. Similarly, to varying degrees, they are all the causes and consequences of the environmental problems on the continent.

While we do not want to overlook the importance of any of the axes chosen, we shall limit ourselves here to the examination of food and energy concerns because of the urgency of the first and the pivotal role of the second.

2.1 Food security

The most vital problem in Africa is undeniably the necessity to halt the decline in agricultural yields and to increase food security by producing more food and improving the storage and distribution of agricultural products. Until now, the relative rise in African agricultural production has been made possible not by a gain in productivity but by the extension of cultivated surfaces. The methods based on the system of long fallow periods, which once allowed man to evolve in perfect harmony with nature have been disrupted. As a result, the reduction of fallow time has prevented the ecosystems from regenerating properly.

The prevailing agricultural practices (extensive and/or rotating systems) therefore constitute the basic causes of soil degradation and the disquieting recession of primary forest zones. Today, agricultural clearings have reached 250,000 ha/yr in Côte d'Ivoire, and between 60,000 and 100,000 ha in the Sahelian nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. For example, from the 70's into the early 80's, the rhythm at which land was being cleared in Côte d'Ivoire had reached nearly 500,000 ha/yr.

The peasants' low buying power robs them of the possibility of acquiring the production inputs required for farming intensification. Moreover, the limited financial capacities of the States are generally inadequate compared to the efforts they must undertake to restore the proper ecological balance.

2.2 Energy security

More than anywhere else in the world, energy is one of the main underlying problems of the African continent. In the next few decades, Africa will be obliged to increase its energy consumption if there is any hope to pull the continent out of its underdeveloped situation and meet the social demands of better living conditions. In African countries, the energy problem is posed in particularly serious for although the continent is generally considered to be rich in energy resources, the quantities made available for the populations remain particularly low; the ratio of electricity consumed in the wealthiest nations over Africa is higher than 150, and the electrification rate for villages remains lower than 5% in Sahelian Africa.

Undoubtedly, the specific situation of countries on the continent are diversified, but certain subregions share relatively similar characteristics. For example, for the Sahelian countries, one can portray the current energy situation on the one hand, by a strong dependence on the supply of hydrocarbons - which is perpetuated and only amplifies imbalances in payments and the debt. On the other hand is the massive stripping of biomass for energy needs - which accelerates the desertification process (over 2.5 million hectares are cleared every year on the Continent). We are at the crux of the energy-environment problem.

It is now widely acknowledged that, given the current trends, many African countries will face major difficulties in tripling or even doubling their energy supplies over the next two or three decades. Conventional supply-oriented approaches to estimation of energy development in Africa, for instance the Word Bank (1989) estimates that the continent needs US$ 28 billion over the next ten years in order to satisfy 5% growth in energy supply. Furthermore, demographic estimates points to that during the 1990s, at least two thirds of expected population increase in Africa will occur in urban ares. This fact alone will tax the capacity of existing energy supply systems, resulting in deterioration of quality of service and increased risk of supply interruption.

3 Possible contradictions and/or joint products

Local concerns

All the analyses of the economic and social conditions in Africa have revealed the profound crisis which has distabilized the continent constantly for nearly two decades. This situation is aggravated by the growing difficulty to mobilize financial resources for social programmes. Most countries have been obliged to adopt economic stabilization or structural adjustment programmes. Short-term and day-to-day management have become the only concerns they really concentrate on. Hence, many African leaders think and assert that they are not concerned by problems linked to the greenhouse gas effect. This also attitude originates from the fact that most of the environmental problems currently affecting the African continent have direct and local impacts on the populations. Mainly then, it is a question of guaranteeing the survival of populations by halting the degradation of ecosystems, particularly where agricultural, forestry or livestock raising systems have developed. They are especially preoccupied by soil conservation, reforestation, brush fire control, etc., that is, all the measures required for the immediate restoration of productive areas which respond more to demand. Consequently, it proves difficult to link these objectives to long-term environmental protection. In other words, before thinking about ensuring the survival of future generations, we must give today's populations the means to feed themselves and live. With that in mind, in a joint declaration, the African States reaffirmed their legitimate right to exploit their natural resources for development purposes and make sure that environmental protection measures do not compromise the development process. Even if one is aware of ecosystems deterioration, the strong and predominant feeling is that the protection of natural resources must not constitute a prerequisite to be imposed by financial institutions and donors for the economic development of African countries.

Access to efficient technologies

It is an accepted fact that energy - particularly petroleum -plays a vital role in the growth and development of Northern nations. At the same time, it is also recognized as a major source of global environmental degradation, from exploitation of natural resources to production and consumption.

In African countries, low energy consumption is both "cause and consequence" of our development problems. It also contributes to environmental degradation (e.g. deforestation).

In such a context, it should not be surprising then, that environmental problems are perceived differently in North and South, with their different economic and cultural sensitivities, even if both agree that these problems are inescapable.

It is evident that the Southern "contribution" to global warming is small compared to that of the North. Joint agreements to limit energy emissions can only be adopted if they do not constitute a constraint to development in the South. Thanks to their command of new technologies, Northern countries are able to adapt as new problems arise. This is not true for less developed countries. The latter often rely on outmoded production techniques (e.g., electricity) and, as consumers, they constitute no more than a dumping ground for Northern surplus (household appliances) or second-hand goods (automobiles).

As for energy, the current system of production and consumption is irrational. We certainly wonder at those who think that a world dominated by the production and consumption of new, high-tech products and low energy consumption is sustainable. Such a world would exclude, ipso facto, those countries that cannot afford such products until the market is saturated (i.e., when prices drop sufficiently in the course of the life cycles of products). In brief, less developed countries are once again relegated to adopt energy-insufficient production technologies and consumer goods.

Thus it becomes a matter of urgency to organize, as rapidly as possible, in-depth reflections on an authentic "energy-environment" future, including an analysis of choices regarding development and society, and of lifestyles and their implications for the environment.

If one adds demographic considerations (50% of the population is under 17 years of age in urban and certain rural areas), it is hard to see how countries that already have difficulties maintaining their industrial capacity will meet a quasi-exponential growth in demand. Demand is expected to grow even though high prices due to inefficient use of technology will limit many people's consumption.

A new opportunity for African countries

Africa, like most developing regions, is particularly vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate changes. Such changes could accentuate the desertification phenomenon and disturb the agricultural production system, which is already suffering from chronic shortages. Among the other possible negative impacts is the flooding of coastal zones, which already show signs of advanced erosion, notably in West and East Africa.

Despite the fact that it still has low anthropic emissions of greenhouse gas, Africa does have an interesting potential for abating or stabilizing these gases, even for increasing sinks. The big challenge is to identify policies and programmes encouraging the application of current priorities in environment and development at the local, national and regional scales, while at the same time contributing to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions or to increasing sinks for eliminating these gases. Possibilities exist in each of the priority main lines identified by the African countries.

In the food sequence, for example, agro-forestry and organic cultivation are two methods which have been practiced successfully and which permit the intensification of agricultural production, while at the same time reducing the inputs (and consequently costs) and greenhouse gas emissions. In the agro-forestry systems, trees are used as nitrogen fixers, in order to replenish nutritive elements in deeper layers and prevent erosion. They also provide firewood, animal forage and various types of income. Organic cultivation increases soil fertility by adding organic matter to it and reduces damage by insects and diseases through corridor cropping and other integrated technologies for controlling harmful elements.

Cultivation based on agro-forestry and organic fertilizers increases food production. It cuts down on costly inputs and renders farming more flexible and adaptable. It restores and maintains carbon levels in the soil. Consequently, if such methods are practiced on a large scale, they can transform African soils into sinks of carbon.

Financial constraints as a source of divergence

The key stake in any strategy for the mitigation or stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries is related to financial issues. These issues raise both problems of equity and of efficacy which are often the most ]d, depending on whether one approaches the GHG emissions issue from a Southern or a Northern point of view.

The problem of equity, beyond other considerations, is analyzed as a function of local concerns, and especially of development objectives, as has been stressed so often. In certain cases, it is possible to reconcile this requirement with global concerns, while it is harder to do so for others. In every case, developing countries have less moving room and are on poor footing to discuss how to share out global environmental limitations?

Many works, notably those concerning the concept of incremental costs, confirm that by maximizing the usefulness of available resources, one can establish the order of priorities for the options for abating GHG emissions. The rarefication of financial resources for development programmes is forcing African countries more and more - for however long they still receive financing - to draw up a list of priorities of national concerns as well. Conflicts of interests are evident in a context where African countries are much poorer equipped to turn their environmental constraints into a factors of development.

4 GHG mitigation strategies what expectations?

Today, there are many technical possibilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these possibilities, however, requires different ways of producing, consuming or simply living. In the energy sector, which happens to be the largest contributor of these emissions, abatement measures range from improving efficiency down the line (from production to enduse) to substitutions for combustible fossils by renewable, non-emitting combustibles. In agriculture, forestry or life styles, various options can be foreseen in each example.

The costs of each of these potential options can be either high or low. Moreover, their implementation will depend on economic criteria which seem to be focused on the quest for a better cost-efficiency ratio. The universality and special nature of the greenhouse phenomenon makes it rather hard to use such a support tool in making decisions.

Two global approaches have emerged from work involving methodological orientations: the first is based on marginal cost, while the second focuses on the necessity to derive reference scenario from a certain voluntarism.

References to the "margin" calculation, whereby "nothing changes because everything should change"

The main guidelines for choosing options stem from the neoclassical theory and the underlying economic calculation; just as in many other areas, they again show their inapplicability, particularly in seeking the global optimum through the margin calculation.

The approach which seems to prevail, at least in the framework of the GEF consists of optimizing the cost-efficiency ratio of its interventions (Costs-Emissions Abatement-Technologies curbs). Since the GEF package is set, this in fact involves maximizing emissions abatement. Hence we have "costing studies," which must provide a precise reference framework geared to defining an investment strategy.

But just as in the social arena (debates of the 1970's), the use of this calculating tool runs into the problem of accounting for the overall profit (choice of a discount rate or of a reference price). Its quantification or the utilization of a reference price for the emissions hides behind a theoretical pseudo-neutrality (reduction of future costs, time gain, improvement of information, option value), the will to make people believe that in every area, the economic theory can generate objective responses in areas where the definitions are essentially controversial and subjective. Thus, in the global warming issue, we find the same debates which animated Social Sciences i.e., that behind "the proposals which are veiled with "economic objectivity," they are just as much conceptions and normative views which are being expressed" (Cornut, 1993).

Every marginalist approach fails to address development fully: one must obtain the maximum abatements for a minimum of investment, independent of the context and whatever the strategic implications may be. One lives in the short term perspective, regardless of the implications for the development model.

Pragmatism and voluntarism of the STAP approach

In contrast, the STAP has recommended a voluntarist and pragmatic approach which, contrary to the above-mentioned approach, constitutes a true stake in the second phase of the GEF and subsequently, its existence.

Moving away from the economist approaches, the STAP members have elaborated eligibility and priority criteria for selecting projects. The advantage of those criteria is that they proceed from a global analysis which also integrates well the geographical factors, reproductivity requirements, sustainability, etc. In other words it resolves a problem that is not strictly economic by a method which takes into account the universality of quantitative and quantitative factors, but especially those which are not strictly economic.

Regrouped into a matrix of objectives (intervention/stages or approach), these criteria make it possible to opt for a balanced project portfolio (thematic and geographical balance). This resolutely normative approach is extremely qualitative (experience and experts' "say so"). One could even be surprised (but we won't be) at criticisms by the World Bank, which prefers a quantitative economic approach based on economic calculations at a time when all expectations and economic forecasts are based more and more on qualitative approaches (the quantitative approach at this level being just another tool to help reach a decision).

Everyone agrees on one point: beyond the pilot phase, for phase II of the GEF, the available resources fall short of the financial requirements; therefore, there cannot be any systematized investment policy, rather the promotion of innovative techniques or approaches mentioned as mentioned above (training and dynamic approaches).

A return to the notion of the cost efficiency of investments as the only criteria for eligibility (hence the choice of tried and true technologies), would bring one around to a marginalist logic basically focused on gaining time. That is why the alternative must still become part of a voluntarist approach centered around the concept of pre-dissemination and, for financing priorities, based on the normative approach defined by STAP in the pilot phase.


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