DeCaDe- Decarbonization Economic Development in Sub-Sahara Africa

Start of Project 11/2018
End of Project 04/2022

As greenhouse gas emissions also increase in sub-Sahara African countries, it is important to identify low-carbon development pathways for the region. The DECADE project contributes to this question: First, we assesses trends and drivers of emissions growth with a special focus on increasing urbanization, structural economic change, changing energy use patterns and de­forestation. Upon this overview, we discuss appropriate climate policies to control emissions growth. The analyses particularly focus on distributional impacts of carbon pricing and fossil fuel subsidy reforms on households across and within-income groups. Finally, we investigate the political economy of such policies, providing the political and institutional barriers for low-carbon transformation strategies in selected countries. The research results inform political and societal stakeholders about the extent to which the NDCs can be achieved, the distributional consequences of potential mitigation policies that intend the achievement of these long-term climate targets, as well as the political and contextual factors supporting or hindering a low-carbon transformation. 

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Project results

African countries are among the most carbonizing in the world, albeit starting from extremely low levels. The planned expansion of coal-fired power plants would have led to a strong acceleration of these effects. However, a large-scale realization of these plans is unlikely, also through civil society engagement (as in Kenya). Climate policy measures must take into account the state of development of specific African states. The introduction of a CO2 tax can be progressive and revenue recycling schemes can be designed to benefit the poorest (e.g. by investing in basic infrastructure). Nevertheless, changes in the price of fossil fuels, especially in the area of ​​cooking, come with negative welfare effects, often for the poor. In the past, increases in the price of cooking gas have led to more people using firewood and charcoal again. In society, this is mainly at the expense of women. Since primary forest is also cut down for the production of charcoal, the climate effect of price instruments in this area (without exceptions for cooking fuels) is questionable.

Illustration of project results

The figure shows how the primary cooking fuel use by households in urban Senegal changed following a fossil fuel subsidy reform in 2008 (in %). It shows a significant decline of LPG use and a significant increase in firewood and charcoal use. Source: Peters&Rose based on DHS data. Use of charcoal and firewood correlates with negative health implications via indoor pollution, adversely impacts female labour supply and women's time use and potentially drives forest degradation. 

Main Findings

  • Biomass will remain an important energy source in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming decades.
  • Energy pricing can push people back into (energy) poverty and have harm­ful effects on the environ­ment and CO2 emissions.
  • To prevent negative effects of energy pricing on poorer house­holds, strong ins­ti­tu­tions are needed to effectively com­pen­sate them.
  • To prevent energy pricing from leading to (even) higher bio­mass use, barriers to accessing modern energy must be re­moved.


Bensch, G., Jeuland, M., Peters, J. (2021):
Efficient biomass cooking in Africa for climate change mitigation and development. One Earth 4 (6): 879-890. 

Dorband, I., Jakob, M., Steckel, J.C. (2022):
Double progressivity of infrastructure financing through carbon pricing - insights from Nigeria. World Development Sustainability 1: 100011.

Greve, H., Lay, J. (2022):
Stepping down the ladder: The impacts of fossil fuel subsidy removal in a developing country. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.

Rose, J., Bensch, G., Munyehirwe, A., Peters, J. (2022):
The forgotten coal: Charcoal demand in sub-Saharan Africa. World Development Perspecitves 25: 100401.

Steckel, J. C., Hilaire, J., Jakob, M., Edenhofer, O. (2020):
Coal and carbonization in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature Climate Change 10 (1): 83-88.