Low-carbon development in sub-Saharan Africa: 20 cross-sector transitions

Working and discussion papers
October 2015
James Ryan Hogarth, Caroline Haywood, Shelagh Whitley

Sub-Saharan Africa is at a critical point, experiencing rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas, and a young and growing workforce. At the same time, the growing risk of catastrophic global climate change threatens to weaken food production systems; increase the intensity and frequency of droughts, floods, and fires; and undermine gains in development and poverty reduction.

Although the region has the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels in the world, it will need to join global efforts to address climate change, including through actions to avoid significant increases in emissions.

This report reviews agriculture, forestry, energy, transport, extractives, construction and manufacturing, based on their importance to countries' economic development and their contribution to current and future greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on this sector-specific analysis, we identify 20 cross-sector transitions that can be undertaken to promote low-carbon development in the region. Our analysis finds:

  • There are transitions that can provide ‘win-win-win’ solutions: reducing GHG emissions, avoiding lock-in to high carbon development paths and supporting inclusive economic growth.
  • Other transitions will require difficult trade-offs where reducing GHG emissions will have little or no impact on livelihoods of the poor, or on improving the productivity of the economy.
  • All low-carbon transitions will require action by government at the sector level, supported by cross-sector collaboration nationally, alongside international finance, technology transfer, and frameworks to promote low-carbon trade and productivity.