Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage? Part 3

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3031_Postcombustion_carbon_capture_technologyToday as we celebrate World Earth Day 2016 and leaders head to New York to sign the Paris Climate Agreement at UN Head Quarters we publish the last part of a three-part interview by Shayne MacLachlan of the OECD Environment Directorate with Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA

SMacL: Are there any countries where policies that support CCS are in place, and why aren’t more governments following your CCS recommendations to prevent an overshoot in emissions?

KBN: Many countries have recognised the importance of CCS and are implementing policies to support its development and future deployment, including through investment in national CO2 storage assessments and pilot RD&D programs. A good example is Japan, which is undertaking site surveys to identify CO2 storage opportunities in parallel with an integrated pilot project at Tomakomai. The challenge for policy makers in Japan and elsewhere is to build these efforts towards large-scale CCS deployment – a task that will require significant public investment and long-term political commitment.

The United States and Canada are currently leading the way with large-scale CCS deployment, hosting 15 of the 22 projects expected to be in operation before 2020. To a large extent this has been underpinned by EOR opportunities which provide a much-needed revenue stream for the captured CO2 and eliminate uncertainty around storage availability.

Beyond these projects, it would be fair to say that global CCS deployment efforts lack a sense of urgency and reflect a tendency to focus on alternative low emission technology options that are perhaps easier to deploy in the short-term. Yet the message from the IEA and others is clear: CCS will be essential if we are to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

SMacL: Do you think that making CCS compulsory, as a condition of extracting fossil carbon out of the ground, is an option worth considering?

KBN: I would recommend that governments be flexible in identifying opportunities to support early CCS deployment. Mandating CCS as a general condition for coal, gas or oil extraction is unlikely to be practical or effective in supporting CCS deployment, as these resources are often traded or exported and their end-use is beyond the influence of the producer. However, there may well be targeted opportunities to implement policies to achieve a similar outcome. For example, Australia’s Gorgon LNG project will soon be the largest CO2 storage project in the world, and the requirement to capture and store the CO2 from the natural gas processing was imposed by the Government as a condition for project approval.

SMacL: There seem to be as many articles these days about how we can recycle, or use CO2 as there are about CCS. Is the use of CO2 just one type of CCS that can make emissions reduction more profitable, or is it something else entirely?

KBN: The utilisation of captured CO2 can make a major difference to the economics of CCS projects. More than half of the large-scale CCS projects currently in operation are associated with EOR, and global EOR activities use around 70 Mt of CO2 each year. Approximately 50 Mt of this is from naturally occurring sources, but in time this could be replaced with CO2 captured from power and industrial facilities. With appropriate site characterisation and monitoring, CO2-EOR can provide a permanent storage solution.

Alternative utilisation technologies such as mineral carbonation and CO2 concrete curing have the potential to provide long-term storage in building materials, but in general these opportunities are limited and would not be an alternative to geological storage. Similarly, today’s commercial uses of CO2, including for chemical solvents, refrigerants, decaffeination of coffee and carbonation of soft drinks are at relatively small scale. For example, the global beverage industry uses around 8 Mt of CO2 each year, which is approximately 0.5% of the CO2 that would need to be captured and stored in 2030 in the IEA 2 degree scenario.

The conversion of CO2 to liquid fuels could potentially replace fossil fuels (thereby reducing emissions) but would not deliver the same net climate benefit as geological storage as the CO2 is ultimately re-released.

SMacL: Do you think it’s inevitable that we’ll use the remaining stocks of fossil carbon in the ground? If we don’t choose to use CCS, by when do we need to stop using fossil fuels in the power sector?

KBN: It is in no way inevitable that we will use all of our global fossil fuel resources, particularly considering we still have more than 120 years of coal resources based on current production rates. Even with widespread deployment of CCS, this level of coal use would be incompatible with global climate goals.

In the event that CCS were not available for power generation, it is likely that fossil fuels will continue to feature with a significant percentage in the electricity mix until at least 2050. In the IEA 2 degree scenario, unabated coal and gas still account for around 16% of global capacity in 2050. A decision not to deploy CCS in the power sector would also remove the opportunity for negative emissions through BECCS, which may have wider implications for how quickly we can transition to net zero emissions globally.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage? Part 2

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3031_Postcombustion_carbon_capture_technologyToday we publish the second part of a three-part interview by Shayne MacLachlan of the OECD Environment Directorate with Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA

SMacL: I’d like to know more about the assertion that CCS is the only known technology that can reduce CO2 emissions from various industrial activities, such as iron and steel, chemical and cement production. Can you explain why this is the case and whether there are any competing alternatives under development? How much would CCS raise the cost of a tonne of steel or cement?

KBN: CCS can play an important role in the decarbonisation of various industrial processes and, in some cases, may be the only option for deep emission cuts. For example, the production of iron, steel and cement emit CO2 from generating heat and electricity, but also from chemical reactions inherent in the process, including the reduction of iron ore to iron and the heating of limestone to produce cement. There are some emissions in industrial processes which can be reduced through energy efficiency and switching to low carbon heat and electricity generation, but CCS is needed to reduce the majority of emissions generated in these processes.

The increase in the cost of a tonne of product due to CCS depends on a range of factors including the process, technologies and the proportion of CO2 being captured. The indicative cost increase per tonne of steel, depending on the production technology, could be USD150 to USD250.

SMacL: The IEA has said that CCS gives the fossil fuel industry, and especially coal resource holders, a chance to protect the assets they have. Why haven’t large fossil fuel companies poured more resources into the development and implementation of this technology?

KBN: The IEA has highlighted that the deployment of CCS becomes a major determinant of the demand for fossil fuels in a climate constrained future. In our 2 degree scenario, more than 95% of coal-fired power generation and 40% of gas-fired generation will need to come from plants equipped with CCS by 2050. Deployment of CCS therefore presents an opportunity for fossil fuel resource holders to secure future demand and revenue, which the IEA has estimated could amount to around $1.3 trillion each for coal and gas between now and 2040.

For owners of emissions-intensive assets, including coal and gas-fired power plants, CCS can also provide a type of insurance mechanism. The option of retrofitting CCS to planned or existing plants can prolong their economic life and reduce the risk of asset stranding.  With around half of global power generation owned by governments, there is also a strong public interest case for CCS.

An estimated USD13 billion in private investment has gone into large-scale CCS projects, including from fossil fuel and technology companies. This figure will need to increase by orders of magnitude if deployment of CCS is to be accelerated, however the conditions to support private investment have largely been absent. Policy and regulatory frameworks that provide targeted support for CCS and certainty for investors will be essential.

SMacL: If fossil fuel companies cannot be relied upon to deliver CCS on their own, what policies can governments put in place to stimulate the development and deployment of CCS? I have heard that carbon prices above fifty dollars would be needed, but is carbon pricing sufficient by itself?

KBN: CCS is an emissions reduction technology that will ultimately require a price on carbon if it is to be commercial. In the near-term, targeted policies will be needed to overcome the technical and commercial barriers to large-scale deployment – in much the same way that targeted policies have supported the deployment of renewable technologies with great success. Policy options for CCS include capital grants, taxation arrangements, regulation and (for power applications) feed-in-tariffs or contracts for difference which offset the higher operational costs associated with capturing and storing the CO2. Governments can also take a major step towards stimulating CCS deployment by identifying and developing CO2 storage infrastructure.

The costs of different CCS applications vary greatly. In natural gas processing, CO2 separation is already an inherent part of the process and the additional costs of CCS can be as low as USD5-20 per tonne of CO2 avoided. As an example, the investment in the Sleipner CCS project was in response to the Norwegian Government’s upstream CO2 tax, which in 1996 was around USD35 per tonne and currently stands at around USD50 per tonne. However the cost per tonne of CO2 avoided in power generation is significantly higher, at USD48-109 for a coal-fired power plant in the United States.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

Post Paris, should we be going for CCCS = Compulsory Carbon Capture and Storage?

Postcombustion carbon capture technology

Shayne MacLachlan, OECD Environment Directorate

You may have seen the film called “Tomorrow”, or under the non-translated title “Demain”, popping up in cinemas all over the place. It’s a French documentary focussing on positive action in 10 countries, showcasing concrete examples in agriculture, energy and education that aim to address our current environmental decline. It’s certainly an encouraging and uplifting watch but I admit to leaving the cinema still troubled by the numbers I see daily and why globally we can’t shake our addiction to carbon. Not only are most of our economies still dependent on fossil carbon for the majority of energy supply, carbon dioxide (CO2) lingers in our atmosphere for a very long time. Even if we stopped emitting the stuff tomorrow, most of it will remain in the atmosphere several centuries from now. According to researchers, “About 50% of a CO2 increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% will be removed within a few centuries. The remaining 20% may stay in the atmosphere for many thousands of years.” Since the beginning of the industrial revolution (~250 years ago) we’ve released about 500 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil sources and deforestation. We are currently on a path towards releasing the second half-a-trillion tonnes in the next 40 years.

Clearly a revolution in the global economy is needed for a heavy reduction of GHG emissions. You may have heard of Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS. This technology prevents CO2 from fossil fuel combustion from accumulating in the atmosphere. In its most common form, this is achieved by capturing the CO2 after combustion at an industrial facility or power plant before it is emitted, then transporting it in a pipeline to a suitable location for permanent storage deep underground in rock formations. These rock formations could be depleted oil and gas reservoirs, such as those where natural gas had been naturally stored for millions of years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sees a big role for CCS in making a low carbon transition possible, both by tackling emissions from heavy industry and helping wean the power sector off fossil fuels at a politically feasible pace.

In the IEA’s scenario for tackling climate change at lowest cost, CCS makes up 13% of CO2 emissions reductions by 2050 compared to business-as-usual (see chart). The IEA’s Executive Director, Fatih Birol, has said that CCS “is an emissions reduction technology that will need to be widely deployed to achieve our low-carbon future” but the IEA has repeatedly noted that progress in CCS deployment is slower than was hoped for.

Contribution of technologies and sectors to global cumulative CO2 reductions link

CO2 reduction

Source: IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2015

In a three-part interview, I talked to Kamel Ben Naceur, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks at the IEA, to find out how delays in CCS might risk the low-carbon transition and what is being done to advance it.

  1. What is the situation for CCS in 2016? How many projects are up and running and, at up to a billion dollars per project, how should we judge their value for money?

There has been considerable momentum in the deployment of CCS in recent times. We now have 15 large-scale CCS projects operating throughout the world, and 7 more are expected to come online in the next two years. By 2020, these 22 projects will collectively be capturing as much as 48 million tonnes of CO2 each year from coal-fired power generation, natural gas processing, steel manufacturing, and fertiliser and hydrogen production.

These projects are providing essential hands-on experience and enabling learning by doing technology cost reductions. For example, the operators of the Boundary Dam project in Canada, which is the first large-scale project to apply CCS to a coal-fired power plant, believe they could reduce the costs of the next plant by 30%. The value of these first-of-a-kind projects therefore needs to be considered not just in pure dollar terms but in terms of their contribution to ensuring CCS technologies are understood and available at a lower cost for future deployment.

Unfortunately, beyond the current wave of projects, there are very few new CCS projects being planned and there is a real risk that today’s momentum will soon be lost without policy intervention.

  1. Following December’s Paris Agreement on Climate Change, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for CCS if we are to transition to a net zero emissions future. Can you explain what this means in practice?

All low emission energy technologies, including CCS, will have an important role to play in supporting a faster transition to net zero emissions and in meeting the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that many long-term climate models are not able to constrain future temperature increases to 2 degrees or less if the availability of CCS and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) is limited.

This reflects the unique contribution of CCS not only in directly reducing emissions from the use of fossil fuels, but in supporting negative emissions technologies that permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. Negative emissions may be needed to extend carbon budgets and balance “stubborn” emissions that are difficult to eliminate, for example in aviation or agriculture. BECCS is one of the most advanced negative emissions technologies but other more nascent technologies such as Direct Air Capture or artificial trees will also depend on the availability of geological storage.

In practice, this means that investment in the identification and development of geological storage facilities will be important, both as a solution to fossil fuel emissions and to ensure that we retain the option of deploying these negative emissions technologies in the future.

  1. How certain can we be that there’s sufficient storage capacity for the CO2 and are we sure it will stay underground?

With more than 20 years of experience in large-scale CO2 injection, storage and monitoring, there is a high degree of confidence that the CO2 will stay underground.  Since 1996, the Sleipner project in Norway has been injecting more than 1 million tonnes a year into a deep saline formation in the North Sea. Naturally-occurring CO2 has also been injected into oil reservoirs in the United States for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) purposes since the 1960s. Provided that the geological storage sites are appropriately characterised and selected, with natural trapping mechanisms, the CO2 is very unlikely to migrate to the surface. Advanced monitoring techniques have also been developed which enable early identification and intervention should the CO2 not behave as expected.

Estimates of global storage resources indicate that capacity should be more than sufficient. The IEA has assessed that, by 2050, as much as 360 GtCO2 could technically be stored just through EOR operations, in a scenario where operators placed emphasis on maximising CO2 storage alongside oil production. This is around 3 times greater than the storage requirements in the IEA’s 2 degree scenario. However, investment in storage exploration and development is needed to better define this storage capacity at a regional level and to support future planning for CCS-dependent facilities.

Useful links

IEA work on carbon capture and storage

A Policy Pathfinder for the Sustainable Development Goals

NAECRon Gass, founding Director of the OECD Directorate of Social Affairs, Manpower and Education and the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Education (CERI)

At one time, I might have said that sustainable development is in the OECD’s blood, but biological metaphors have made enormous progress over the past few years and now I’d say it’s in the Organisation’s DNA. The OECD Convention, signed in December 1960, talks about the signatory countries’ determination to “promote the highest sustainable growth of their economies and improve the economic and social well-being of their peoples”. This commitment has been reaffirmed regularly, in 2013 for example when the strategic role of the OECD was defined as helping to achieve a resilient economy, inclusive society, and sustainable environment.

How to relate economic growth to the other goals is more than an analytical question, since it lays bare the burning political issues of the day: threats to the biosphere; growing inequality leading to a threat to democracy; and a new technological revolution. Above all, there is a loss of trust in the capacity of governments across the world to advance towards obviously desirable goals.

None of these issues can be tackled in isolation, but the economic, social, and environmental systems have different logics, so systems analysis is back in vogue. Trade-offs and synergies can be demonstrated by analysis, but politicians have to arbitrate between different goals. The disaggregation of policy frameworks is part of that movement, which has several thrusts: the importance of relating a reduced range of indicators to the political goals of individual countries; “around the table” discussions in the country review process to nail down the real policy options; the preponderant role of metropolitan areas in growth; and the fact that national strategies may simply not work at the regional level.

Can the economic, social and environmental systems be reformed to take account of this more complex and more realistic view of what makes human beings tick? Can rational self-interest be balanced by altruism, power by individual autonomy, greed by solidarity? These questions take the OECD growth paradigm to, and perhaps beyond, its limits. They challenge the behavioural assumptions about economic man and woman on which the dominant macro-economic theory is built. On the theoretical side, behavioural economics is beginning to provide new insights concerning individual and collective rationality. On the policy side, alternative concepts such as the collaborative economy are coming under debate.

The long OECD quest for fair (income distribution) and open (equality of opportunity) societies is now faced by a new challenge: how to inter-relate the two. OECD analyses have shown that income disparities are widening and that the meritocratic social ladder is blocked. But there is no clear strategy for the redistribution of opportunities, involving both education and the labour market. The redistribution of life-long learning opportunities could be an answer, since it would help individuals to renew their human capital at several points in the life-cycle.

Behind this lurks the most serious threat to inclusive society – profound inter-generational inequalities. When I asked the OECD’s New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) Seminar on the New Growth Narrative if inclusive growth includes the non-active population, the affirmative “yes” in reply puzzled me, since I had the opposite impression. Obviously, inclusive growth includes the non-active population insofar as household income and health care are concerned, but the problem of social exclusion involves the redistribution of opportunities as well as incomes. Hence the recent creation of the OECD Centre for Opportunity and Equality (COPE).

As is the case of the feminist movement, the status of youth in society is more than an economic issue. As stated in the OECD/EU Youth Inclusion Project of the Development Centre: “young people are agents of change. They live in a fast-growing world and have heightened expectations”. The costs of blocking youth from accession to adulthood, as citizens as well as workers, will be very high. The response lies in “A Society Fit for Future Generations”, a question already raised in the OECD Global Strategy Group. The future is now and it has to be invented, so say the strategic foresighters. Yes, but it has to be built on the foundations of the past.

I am struck by the reality that the past and the future are colliding. Both growth and de-growth are in the nature of things: the seed in the pod flowers, dies and is reborn. What humankind has added is the idea of progress: the act of moving forward towards chosen goals.

But the relationship between collective goals and individual autonomy is the central problem of democracy, and it pervades contemporary philosophical, political and economic debate. Human rights, empowerment, and universal human needs are embedded in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the OECD’s “Better Lives” approach. How can this reality find expression in the efforts of OECD and other countries to chart their future?

The systemic interdependencies between the economy, society and nature cannot in all circumstances be handled by market solutions. A new humanism, centred on fundamental human needs rather than runaway consumerism, is needed to combat the threat of trans-humanism. Innovative creativity across the policy arena, piloted by strategic foresight and with human progress as its goal, is the order of the day.

The goal of reconciling nature, the economy and society requires a world view. In the absence of a world government, a sort of coalition of multinational agencies, serving the political leadership in the UN, G20, G7 frameworks, is emerging. There are many examples of OECD bilateral co-operation with other international agencies such as the WTO, ILO, and Unesco, but the most striking phenomenon is a common effort to achieve the SDGs.

In this “coalition” of international agencies, the OECD role is that of policy pathfinder and standard setter, based on soft-power, rather than legal or financial power as is the case of the IMF, ILO and WTO. Professionalism, political neutrality, and intellectual independence are essential for that role to be exercised and accepted.

Useful links

This article is a summary of a longer paper, “The Story of Four OECD Seminars” (OECD and the Crisis of Progress; Inclusive Society; The Hegemony of Growth; The Future of Growth). You can download the paper here.

OECD work on the Sustainable Development Goals

Aid trend is reversing: More money to the poorest

dac oda 2016Erik Solheim, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee

Global development aid reached a record high in 2015. Being inspired to do even better, we should also focus on the main purpose of aid. Is it to be the salt or the oil in the water?

This year’s figures from OECD show that development aid rose again. Despite the huge refugee crisis, the DAC donors spent more money on aid in 2015 than they did in 2014. True, some countries have used big amounts from their aid budgets on refugees in their own countries. But even when we strip out funds spent on refugees at home, overall aid to everything else has increased by almost 2 percent. This means more money to poor countries.

The total amount of aid money reached USD 131.6 billion in 2015. That is a lot of money, and we need to make sure that it is spent well. Which leads me to my initial question: What is the main purpose of aid? As someone said at the UN Development Cooperation Forum in Brussels, is it to be the salt or the oil in the water? More precisely: Should we use aid to blend in with private investments, enforce tax administration and invest in the environment? Or should aid be something separate which goes directly to health, education or building roads?

For the poorest countries, there is no doubt that aid naturally plays a much bigger role than in middle-income countries. As ONE’s Global Policy Director, Eloise Todd writes in her blog: International development is our best long-term bet in foreign policy.

For countries such as Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique aid is essential for supporting health, education, and the creation of livelihoods – without which, human development and an end to poverty cannot be achieved. Aid supports poor countries’ own plans and paths to development. Thus I believe it is still needed with a drastic increase in countries’ assistance in the years ahead. Education in the Central African Republic cannot be achieved through private investment, it goes without saying. And as Bono said earlier this week after visiting refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East “It is less expensive to invest in stability than to confront instability.”

The OECD has long called for more aid to the least developed countries. Also ONE and many other humanitarian organisations have also focused on the need for more money to the poorest. This year I am happy that we see a reversing trend, and in 2015 the poorest received more money that the years before: a 4 percent increase in bilateral aid and 3 percent increase in core assistance to the least developed countries. And 11 percent increase in humanitarian aid. We need to keep this aid high in the years to come as well.

At the same time we need to think smarter about aid to middle-income countries. The main focus of development has to be on increasing taxes and green growth. Already developing countries are paying for 98 percent of their education expenses themselves. If they increase their tax incomes by only one percent, it will contribute more to their finances than all the development aid they receive.

Aid has an important role, but we will not find the really big investments in development cooperation. Both aid and private investment are needed to move the world, and aid can be a catalyst to make this happen. When solar and hydropower are profitable, then we will also have major investments there. Aid and investment must go hand in hand.

Despite last year’s huge refugee crisis, the OECD countries have given more aid to poor countries and major international organisations. They have shown to be both generous and responsible. And I am optimistic on our way to reach the new and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals which aim for a future of peace, prosperity, and dignity for all.

We have over the two last decades made huge progress reducing poverty and are on track to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, but success is still elusive. Aid plays a vital role in helping the most vulnerable countries and people. On our way to a better life for the poorest and a greener world, aid needs to be used both as salt and oil in the water. Hopefully we will see even more aid next year.
Useful links

Download ODA figures in Excel

Why the latest aid figures mean we must think bigger about development

one orgEloise Todd, Global Policy Director, the ONE Campaign

The world is changing rapidly. With conflicts continuing to erupt, the amount of vulnerable people in the world is increasing, as is the complexity and cost of the response needed to help people survive extreme poverty and danger.

The impact of this on aid budgets is a big concern. Each April marks the annual publication of the OECD DAC’s latest aid figures revealing how much money aid-giving countries have invested in development the year before and how this money was allocated.

In most years trends in aid investments are straightforward to predict, but with the refugee crisis prompting countries to raid their aid budgets to cover expenses at home, we were braced for bad news. However, at first glance, the overall picture looks positive – aid grew by almost 2% even when domestic refugee costs are discounted. The new figures also show that total aid to the least developed countries (LDCs) finally increased last year, rising by 5.8%.

LDCs rely on aid for a large portion of their budget in order to provide even the most essential services. After several years of aid to the poorest countries declining, this rebound shows the first signs of hope that countries are investing in the places and people that need it most. Countries such as Canada, Poland and the Slovak Republic saw their contributions to LDCs increase by more than 25%.

Donor countries’ own refugee costs more than doubled last year – amounting to $12 billion. European countries are absolutely right to be providing the funds needed to support refugees, but these funds should be additional to their overseas aid budgets. Whether the poorest and most vulnerable people live in cities or refugee camps, they deserve protection and the opportunity to live a productive life. Both development and humanitarian needs are urgent, and increasing, and the last thing governments should be doing is claiming their domestic expenses from the precious pot of funds for the world’s poorest people overseas.

International development is our best long-term bet in foreign policy – lifting people out of poverty in turn creates the human security and economic prosperity needed that can help stop countries sliding into crisis. As well as being the right thing to do, fighting poverty is an insurance policy for stability across the developing world. The long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs. As Bono said earlier this week after visiting refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East “It is less expensive to invest in stability than to confront instability.”

ONE and many others have called for 50% of overseas aid budgets to be allocated to LDCs and for all aid to be focused on the poorest people, wherever they are – in poor countries or at Europe’s shores..

No deadly trade off should be made by diverting funds from one to cover the cost of the other. Rich countries can and must do both.

(Note: Net ODA excludes bilateral debt relief, and includes both bilateral and multilateral flows. SSA and LDC imputed multilateral flows in 2015 are estimated by ONE).

Useful links

Download ODA figures in Excel

Learning from the Millennium Development Goals: How Can the Global Alliance for Resilience Contribute to the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Ousman Tall, Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) Secretariat

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were globally attained but while Sub-Saharan Africa reduced poverty levels from 56.5% in 1990 to 48.4% in 2010, it did not achieve the target of reducing the poverty rate in half – to 28.25 % – by 2015. The region is faced with numerous problems that have resulted in high levels of insecurity and instability. The ecology is fragile due to climate shocks and environmental disasters, such as recurrent droughts, floods, locust threats and desertification. This has greatly affected pastoralist and agro-pastoralist activities and resulted in low production and productivity. Armed conflicts in the region have displaced a large number of the population and increased vulnerability. Crisis is persistent and inevitable, especially within the poorest areas of the region. While these challenges might seem enormous, they are by no means insurmountable. This is evident in the many policies, programmes and projects being implemented in the region and in the success stories of the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA).

The development plans of most countries in the region address these persistent crises in a manner consistent with global development frameworks that do not adequately consider the local perspective and understanding of the nature and scope of the problems such countries are confronting. Efforts should be made to target the most vulnerable segments of the population within the context of resilience building, as countries in the region are faced with situations in which they have to adapt, plan and continuously adjust their responses to the realities at hand.  At the same time, they also have to transform and undertake a new development trajectory as and when necessary. This is the focus of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR) which views resilience as a defining characteristic of sustainability and is based on a shared understanding of what the term ‘resilience’ means:

“The capacity of vulnerable households, families, communities and systems to face uncertainty and the risk of shocks, to withstand and respond effectively to shocks, as well as to recover and adapt in a sustainable manner”.

Priorities are defined based on the shared understanding of the major issues and through a participatory and inclusive process. Using a forward-looking approach, the AGIR Regional Roadmap seeks to complement the SDGs through the development of National Resilience Priorities (NRPs), which translate the objectives of AGIR into processes for building resilience at the national level.

AGIR builds on the following four pillars to achieve its overall objective of eradicating hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel and West Africa within twenty years:

  • Improve social protection for the most vulnerable households and communities.
  • Strengthen the nutrition of vulnerable households.
  • Sustainably improve agricultural & food production, the incomes of vulnerable households and their access to food.
  • Strengthen the governance of food and nutritional security.

Each individual country process seeks to align its resilience priorities with other national objectives that are consistent with the SDGs and other frameworks. The phenomenon of climate change is integrated in the NRPs. The requisite national policies and regulations, the structure for implementation and the institutional arrangements and modalities for support are being put in place. By promoting an intersectoral co-ordination approach, AGIR can better influence the effectiveness of interventions and help the implementation of the post-2015 Development Agenda.

During the implementation of the MDGs, most countries in the Sahel and West Africa lacked the basic information and capacity to conduct the analysis required to monitor and report on its progress. This issue was even more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa where 61% of the countries lacked the means to monitor poverty, which is one of the main goals of the MDGs.  The SDGs implementation process is designed to correct this shortfall, especially during this early period of the implementation process. AGIR is also mindful of the need to properly measure and report on indicators. For example, in the implementation of its Regional Roadmap, AGIR is ensuring that the sophistication, complementarity, combination and harmonisation of tools are addressed at all levels in measuring resilience and that the tools are usable and affordable within national and local contexts.

The political will to support the AGIR process has been demonstrated by leaders in the region. Under the political leadership of ECOWAS and UEMOA, the AGIR Regional Roadmap is being translated into NRPs for the 17 countries in the Sahel and West Africa. These national inclusive processes for defining the NRPs are at different stages of implementation.


As these countries move towards the completion of the NRPs, other regional initiatives will have to be accelerated in support of their implementation. The harmonisation of tools for measuring resilience and the framework for monitoring resilience interventions, which are already on-going, need to be accelerated. There is also a need to strengthen the convergence, co-ordination and synergy among actors working on resilience in the region, under the common framework offered by AGIR. The Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) has appealed for such actions at almost all of its last meetings. When Network members meet at the RPCA Meeting from 13-15 April at the OECD in Paris, it is hoped that this call will be reiterated with additional support for the implementation of the Regional Roadmap and for countries that have developed their NRPs.

There is a positive correlation between the implementation of the AGIR Regional Roadmap and the achievement of some of the SDGs – especially goals 1 & 2 (ending poverty and hunger respectively) – in the Sahel and West Africa, and support for the implementation of AGIR in any form is either direct or indirect support for the implementation of the SDGs.

Useful links

OECD work on the Sustainable Development Goals