Implementation of climate finance / Transparency

SE4All: transparency and civil society involvement are in short supply

Sustainable energy for all?
Photo: C. Kropke, Brot für die Welt

The second Forum of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) – a United Nations initiative launched by Ban Ki-Moon in late 2011 – is taking place in New York from the 19th to the 22nd of May, 2015. Its theme: “Financing Sustainable Energy for All”. Participants from politics, business and civil society have been invited to report on the activities and progress they have made in introducing new technologies and approaches within the context of SE4All and to present ideas and mechanisms for large-scale funding opportunities for the initiative’s implementation.

The goals of SE4All are to overcome energy poverty, raise the share of renewables in the global energy mix from 15 to 30 percent and to double the rate of increase in energy efficiency from 1.2 to 2.4 percent. Germany is also participating in the initiative. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), for example, wants to provide an additional 100 million people access to electricity or sustainable cooking and heating energy by 2030 with its 2014 energy sector programme. Financial resources for the sector are to be doubled to at least 3.6 billion euros annually by 2030 to meet this goal. Moreover, the BMZ, the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the KfW development bank were involved in the development of the Global Tracking Framework.

From the very start, the SE4All initiative had been criticized in a number of respects by civil society organizations. One of the main issues has been the question whether the SE4All targets are ambitious enough for the development path within the 2°C global warming limit. A further point of criticism is the massive private-sector presence in the bodies of the initiative, which includes companies such as Statoil, Shell and Eskom that are among the biggest extractors of fossil fuels and some of which are listed in the Carbon Majors study. SE4All thus focuses heavily on the development of new investment opportunities for the private sector in emerging markets and too little on the situation in the poorest developing countries where the majority of people live without access to energy. Other criticisms of SE4All include its opaque structures and a lack of involvement of civil society organizations.

Transparency does not equal quantity

With the Global Tracking Framework SE4All has developed a comprehensive methodology and data platform for regular reporting on the attainment of goals. It also states the financing requirements for the individual areas of the SE4All initiative. It remains unclear, however, how the data relates to the pledges and how compliance will be verified in light of the voluntary nature of SE4All. The situation is similar with regard to funding commitments and initiatives that are being listed on the SE4All website, as the entries are not updated, verified whether they are actually additional or even checked as to whether they are being followed up by action.

At the national level, at least 50 developing countries have since performed a Rapid Analysis and Gap Assessment (RAGA) as a first step. RAGAs are used to analyze national energy production and the potential for its transformation. While the individual RAGAs are published on the SE4All website, they do not follow an established format, nor is any information available about how they will be followed up. SE4All is thus collecting a considerable amount of public information, yet central elements for transparency such as coordination, comparability, review and updates are lacking.

Insufficient involvement of civil society in the national processes

The involvement of civil society will be a key element for the successful implementation of SE4All, as experience from other global initiatives has shown; such participation is also reflected in the founding document of the initiative. A study by CAFOD, Hivos, iied and Practical Action examined civil society involvement in the national processes of six developing countries. For this purpose, the following factors for good practice in civil society involvement were identified:

  • the commitment of all involved actors to include numerous stakeholders and clear responsibilities or points of contact for the process
  • participatory and inclusive design of the consultation process
  • timely contact to all stakeholders
  • access to substantial information for all stakeholders
  • attention to gender issues and proactive outreach to vulnerable and excluded groups
  • capacity building for stakeholders to ensure their well-founded input
  • clear action plans and a clear division of roles and responsibilities
  • participation of stakeholders in decision-making
  • participation of stakeholders in implementation and monitoring

The results are not very encouraging. Hardly any country complies with the criteria in its national processes. Looking at the results in greater detail, it becomes apparent that civil society involvement is highly dependent on how well the civil society organizations are established in the respective countries, as well as how actively they become involved in the processes and in organizing capacity building of other organizations. Governments have not shown a particularly proactive stance, nor have they been very clear about the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Things look especially bad from the gender perspective and the involvement of marginalized groups, despite the fact that they are particularly relevant for poverty reduction and social inclusion. These points receive little or no attention in the processes and documents – which is all the more worrying as the UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) began with a two-year campaign to improve the health of women and children by providing access to modern energy supplies. Local inequalities in access to energy are also not

taken into account. Local or community-based organizations (CBOs) could make an important contribution here, which is being lost due to the lack of civil society involvement.

If SE4All really wants to be a multi-stakeholder initiative with equal involvement by governments, industry and civil society that will make a substantial contribution toward achieving the 2°C goal while overcoming energy poverty, considerable effort will still be needed with regard to transparency, tracking pledges and the involvement of civil society organizations, also at the national level. This will also require commitment on the part of Germany as one of the supporters of the SE4All initiative.

Christine Lottje