Scaling Up Renewables to Empower Lives and Livelihoods Requires an Integrated Effort


Over 2.5 billion people worldwide rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, making the sector a key driver for development. It is estimated that 1 billion people use health facilities without electricity, while others must access facilities suffering from an unreliable electricity supply.

Over the years, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has steadily increased its focus on decentralised renewable energy to systematically transform the health and agri-food value chains, shifting from an electrification approach to one aimed at empowering lives and livelihoods, creating and facilitating the right market conditions such as access to affordable finance for smallholder farmers, agri-enterprises and health facilities.

In response to the climate and recent health and geopolitical crises that have exerted additional pressure on the food and health systems, IRENA and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have established the Empowering Lives and Livelihoods – Renewables for Climate Action initiative.

H.E. Dr. Nawal Al Hosany

H.E. Dr. Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of UAE to IRENA said: “The provision of reliable and cleaner sources of energy can play an integral role in agriculture and health. This acceleration can also empower women. The Empowering Lives and Livelihoods: Renewables for Climate Action is a COP28 initiative and is designed as a collaborative, collective and comprehensive solution to the challenges facing those who are feeding the growing world. We will call on the international community to get behind this push for funding programmatic support and urgent climate action. COP28 is a COP for all, inclusive climate action, and that no one is left behind in the energy transition.”

To be launched at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the UAE later this year, the initiative aims to support IRENA Members to design and implement tailored country programmes. “Enhancing food security, renewable energy and adaptation are key pillars for Norway and we welcome the Empowering Lives and Livelihoods initiative. It is important to connect and strengthen value chains in agriculture to strengthen food security. Partnerships are important. This initiative can unlock potential for empowering women. Finance, expertise and capacity are needed. Implementation will require better access to credit and the public sector has a key role to play,” said H.E. Odd-Inge Kvalheim, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations (UN).

The initiative also seeks support and partnering with multi-stakeholders to pool resources and expertise, as well as to commit USD 1 billion to address the complex nexus issues of agriculture and health value chains in the energy transitions.

At this stage, IRENA is introducing the initiative to potential partners; philanthropic institutions, impact investors and implementation agencies that can leverage private sector capital to finance enterprises and initiatives on the ground. In a series of events organised by IRENA and the UAE in New York and Washington DC on 24 – 25 April 2023, IRENA was engaging with major philanthropy institutions such as the Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Open Society Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation.

H.E. Lana Nusseibeh

The meeting in New York was hosted by the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN. In her opening remarks, H.E. Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN, stated that “Renewables are a large part of the conversations of climate actions. They are the closest thing to a silver bullet for development. But in order to really scale them up, we still need simplified and affordable access to finance renewable energy projects, and an environment that allows de-risking private sector investments. As the torch passes on to the UAE for COP28, we hope to solidify our role as a proactive and strategic partner on guiding the renewables revolution.”

LLCOP28 Nicole Iseppi

“The value of the Empowering Lives & Livelihoods initiative is that it raises a new dialogue improving livelihoods and using renewables as a driver. We really need to think more about dialogues of how to move minds and actions towards lives and livelihoods. The initiative is also a perfect example of how to work with other sectors from a multi-issue perspective. With partners and collaborators, the Bezos Earth Fund is looking at how to accelerate actions in this decade,” said Ms Nicole Iseppi, Director of Energy Innovation, Bezos Earth Fund. “Our mandate is to be bold and catalytic towards execution.”

Mr Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice President (Power & Climate), Rockefeller Foundation added “If we want to accelerate, we have to work together and find creative ways to implement. Distributed renewables are being championed by the foundation and it is good to see the Empowering Lives and Livelihoods initiative. It is a perfect time to integrate all our efforts.”