Leapfrogging over development? Promoting rural renewables for climate change mitigation

Hisham Zerriffi, Elizabeth Wilson

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26 Scopus citations


Renewable energy technologies have the potential to help solve two pressing problems. On one hand, carbon-free energy sources must play a role in climate change mitigation. On the other hand, renewables might help meet needs of rural people without access to modern energy services. However, if renewables are deployed to combat climate change (primarily resulting from emissions in the developed economies) then providing basic energy services in the developing world may be compromised. The tendency to conflate the two drivers by installing renewables in rural areas for carbon mitigation reasons rather than for development reasons could compromise both goals. The danger is supporting sub-optimal policies for mitigating carbon and for rural energy. This is problematic given the limited funds available for energy development and reducing greenhouse gases. This paper analyzes how these goals have been balanced by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Project documents are used to determine whether incremental costs of installing renewables were covered by GEF funds and whether the costs are comparable with other carbon mitigation options. The results raise concerns about the effectiveness and appropriateness of GEF funding of such projects and highlight the importance of post-Kyoto framework design to reduce emissions and promote development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1689-1700
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy and the Liu Institute for Global Issues for support. They would also like to thank Nick Mark and Christine Wenman for research assistance in compiling the database of projects. Hisham Zerriffi and Elizabeth Wilson were both responsible for structuring the research, Hisham Zerriffi led the data analysis and the sections on rural energy and methods, Elizabeth Wilson was responsible for the GEF overview. Both authors oversaw the final product.

Funding Information:
Climate change projects supported by the GEF focus on (1) removing barriers for energy efficiency and energy conservation; (2) promoting renewable energy adoption; (3) reducing costs of low GHG emitting technologies; and (4) promoting environmentally sustainable transport ( Eberhard et al., 2004 ). Ninety percent of all GEF climate funds have been spent on 277 full-sized projects (over US$ 1 million), with 91 mid-sized projects spending just 3% of the funds and 277 enabling activities costing just 6% of all GEF funds. Climate change projects are funded through the GEF Trust Fund (581 projects and 97% of total climate change portfolio funds), the Special Climate Change Fund (13 projects and 2% of funds) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (51 projects, 50 support enabling activities, and use less than 1% of all project funds).


  • Global Environment Facility
  • Renewable energy
  • Rural energy


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