The Chatham House Report for the Moving Energy Initiative highlights that there are now 60 million forcibly displaced people living across the globe. These people used around 3.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent, predominantly in the form of firewood and charcoal for heating and cooking.

These inefficent fuels cost around $2bn annually and generate 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The subsequent air pollution could be killing 20,000 each year.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Chatham House senior researcher Glada Lahn said: “This is as an energy access problem. These displaced people and refugees are part of the 2.9 billion living in energy poverty around the world, but the sustainable development goals and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative didn’t mention them. They are a grey area.”

Widening gap

The report warns that the gap between the needs of growing numbers of displaced people and the resources and political will to meet these needs is widening. The majority of camps rely on inefficient techniques to burn biomass like wood which emits 4.54 tCO2 per tonne of oil equivalent, compared with 2.79 tCO2 from burning an equivalent amount of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The report recommends a widespread introduction of improved cooking stoves and basic solar lanterns as a means of saving $323m a year in fuel costs, although this would require a one-off payment of $335m to implement. This could also result in emissions savings of 6.85m tCO2 per year.

Long-term thinking

The report states that short-term, politically-orientated humanitarian funding is inadequate to finance long-term energy solutions. To combat this, the report suggests humanitarian agencies create a fund for energy infrastructure.

Appealing to the private sector and climate related funding are two possible avenues of exploration in an attempt to implement the ideal scenario solar grids and more permanent renewable energy infrastructure in every camp, along with those with the expertise to use them.

The report also recommends that refugee camps’ energy needs should be affiliated with existing government policies so that national projects benefit the displaced as well as the locals.

Water stress

Growing water scarcity could add to the 60 million forcefully displaced, with the World Resources Institute reporting that 33 countries could be at risk from water-stress by 2040. Of the countries, 14 are from the Middle East where many will move to increasingly overcrowded cities.

Climate change has already led to the creation of the world’s first ‘climate refugee’ who was recently deported from New Zealand, despite launching a legal appeal that his home country Kiribati was threatened by rising sea-levels.

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Matt Mace

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