For Earth Day, the Impact Blog interviewed Eric Postel, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment (E3).
You are head of the E3 bureau, which works in the environment, energy, water and climate change sectors, among others. In the context of Earth Day, why is this work so important?
When I was a freshman in High School, I was one of the organizers of the first Earth Day. I’ve been committed to environmental issues ever since.
These issues – such as forests, water, and climate change – touch upon all areas of sustainable development, including agricultural productivity, economic growth, gender issues, and health. The economies of many developing countries are heavily dependent on industries that could be severely impacted by climate change such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism. Poor communities are more limited in their ability to adapt to climate change. As a result, climate change can compound pre-existing social stresses including poverty, hunger, conflict, migration, and the spread of disease.
2012 is the U.N. Year of Sustainable Energy for All. What is USAID doing to promote clean energy?
Globally, 1.6 billion people lack access to modern energy services, such as electricity, and more than two billion rely on traditional fuels, such as wood and dung, for cooking, often paying significant portions of their income for low quality fuels. USAID is working around the world to address energy poverty by helping to provide clean, renewable energy for their citizens to power their homes, schools, health clinics, and businesses. This work literally helps power development across all sectors. It is also a critical component of dealing with the world’s expanding population and the pressures that this growth will place on the environment. Over the next 20 years, worldwide energy demand is projected to increase by 40 percent. Continued dependence on fossil fuels to meet this increasing demand contributes to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and economic disruption from increasing world competition for fossil fuels. Emissions of carbon dioxide, the most significant greenhouse gas, are projected to grow by approximately 40 percent between 2007 and 2030, exacerbating global climate change. This challenge cannot be ignored.
Tell us about USAID’s Climate Change and Development Strategy.
USAID’s Climate Change and Development Strategy, which we released this January, describes our Agency’s vision and strategy to address the challenges that climate change poses to development and livelihoods around the world. It outlines the Agency’s goals, strategic objectives, and guiding principles for climate change programming, and lays out a roadmap for implementation.
This strategy specifies three strategic objectives that will guide our future work. USAID will: 1. accelerate the transition to low emission development through investments in clean energy and sustainable landscapes for climate change mitigation; 2. increase the resilience of people, places, and livelihoods through investments in climate change adaptation; and 3. strengthen development outcomes by integrating climate change in USAID programming, learning, policy dialogues, and operations.