Listen to the voices!

Image of the hill with brown ground where most of the trees were cut or burned with a couple of trees and shades of green left. In the background there is still greenery and green hills

Will 2019 bring the necessary changes required to protect the world against catastrophic climate change? In 2015 in Paris, we all agreed that it was essential to limit temperature to well below 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In addition, in 2016 we agreed that universal access to energy (SDG7) is essential to achieving many of the other sustainable development goals, from mitigating climate change to eradicating poverty. But with the current climate ambition, the world is on a trajectory to 3-4 degrees rise in global temperature. Also, we will not meet the global energy targets for 2030 at the current pace - three billion people (40% of world’s population) still do not have access to clean cooking, and one billion people lack access to electricity.

During the last months of 2018, I listened to many voices demanding change. I have supported our partner civil society organisations in the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme, who are creating change by working with government and other stakeholders in their countries. I had the opportunity to observe inspiring changes during our V4CP learning visit in Ghana, though still many challenges remain. Early December, I followed the climate negotiations in Katowice during the COP24, where 31,000 people came together to talk about raising climate ambitions and sadly, failed to agree on the necessary steps to avert dangerous climate impacts.

And I wonder: how can so many voices lead to too little change?

My wish for the new year is that we all learn to listen better. There are so many voices, so many communication channels, so many followers, likes, hashtags – but do we really listen to what the others say? Do we reflect on what we read or hear, and think about how this can change our own actions?

In Kenya, the Kitui county government has listened to the voices of local women, who represented their communities in calling for access to clean cooking technologies. The women learned how improved cookstoves have fewer health impacts compared to traditional cooking methods, and also save time as less firewood needs to be collected. Listening to the women’s advocacy, the Kitui county politicians have included clean cooking as an explicit goal in their policies and have allocated specific funds for interventions in support of clean cooking.

When listening results in action, it is inspiring and enlightening. It brings about new voices and inspires others to take action too. In our V4CP learning visit in Ghana, we brought together civil society voices from all over the world to exchange experiences and challenges encountered while trying to create change. We visited several companies whose businesses are doing things differently: PEG Africa, who make solar home systems affordable for the poorest using innovative pay-as-you-go financing. Black Star Energy, who provide electricity to remote communities with modular solar PV mini-grid systems. And Man and Man, who produce thousands of improved cookstoves per month increasing access to cleaner cooking.

These companies and organisations are taking important steps to create the necessary change. Their steps stimulate market development for decentralised renewable energy, which is essential to provide energy in remote, poor communities, and achieve access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for all. They help poor households to climb on the energy ladder, by providing them with access to electricity and cleaner cooking methods.

We should listen more carefully to their voices, and let ourselves be inspired to act and to support change. Listening catalyses learning and enables us to take the necessary actions towards just, inclusive development, with equal access to services, jobs and resources, without exacerbating climate change.

This is my wish for 2019.