Africa Climate Summit sees Community Jameel and J-PAL announce a new initiative to improve access to clean air and water and reliable energy in Cape Town

Nairobi, Kenya

Community Jameel, an independent global organisation advancing science and learning, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Africa and the City of Cape Town today announced the launch of a new J-PAL Air and Water Lab to be embedded in the Cape Town municipal government. The lab aims to improve access to reliable energy, quality water and clean air for the nearly 5 million Capetonians. Researchers affiliated with J-PAL will partner with key departments at the City of Cape Town to co-generate research and inform the scaling of evidence-based city programmes and policies.

The City of Cape Town's growing population creates new challenges for providing residents with quality basic services. Exacerbated by the worsening climate emergency, it is imperative to find cost-effective ways to provide residents with access to reliable energy, clean air and quality water. By co-generating policy-relevant evidence with researchers, city officials can gain the information they need to dedicate resources to effective programmes and policies.

The announcement was made at the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, at a high-level private roundtable discussion titled ‘Investing in South-led science and innovation for a just and equitable climate finance framework’, co-chaired by His Excellency Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, the United Nations (UN) climate change high-level champion for COP27 and UN special envoy on financing the 2030 agenda, Professor Laurence Tubiana, chief executive officer of the European Climate Foundation, and George Richards, director of Community Jameel.

George Richards, director of Community Jameel, said: “Communities across the world continue to face challenges in accessing clean air and water, a threat to human safety that has only been exacerbated by the climate crisis, along with rising temperatures and other hazards. Through our collaboration with J-PAL Africa and the City of Cape Town in establishing this new climate lab, we are committed to advancing science-based approaches that can help millions of Capetonians enjoy healthier lives.”

Teresa Lezcano Cadwallader, associate director of policy at J-PAL Africa, said: “As climate challenges worsen, it is crucial to identify and invest in solutions that achieve their desired outcomes. Partnerships between local policymakers and researchers provide a key opportunity to co-generate actionable evidence, enabling decision-makers to scale up solutions shown to be effective.”

The new lab builds on a longstanding relationship between J-PAL Africa and the City of Cape Town. Since 2014, J-PAL Africa has collaborated with the City’s Policy and Strategy unit to generate policy-relevant evidence to help address severe challenges related to climate change, energy, and water access.

The new lab in Cape Town is part of a network of climate labs launched by Community Jameel, J-PAL and C40 Cities, a global network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities confronting the climate crisis. Embedding and strengthening policy teams in national, state and city government, the labs aim to drive evidence-based and innovative approaches to tackling the effects of the climate crisis.

Community Jameel is supporting at least four J-PAL labs focused on clean air and water – at the city level in Cape Town, at the national government level in Egypt, and at the state level in India, including Gujarat – collectively serving nearly 260 million people. It will also support two C40-led labs focused on sustainable urban planning in South and West Asia, based in Chennai, India, and Amman, Jordan. J-PAL and C40 will collaborate to leverage learnings.

Community Jameel has previously partnered with J-PAL to advance evidence-based policymaking through partnerships with governments to allow for enhanced policies and programmes in line with development priorities. In 2022, J-PAL Middle East and North Africa launched the Egypt Impact Lab in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, with foundational support from Community Jameel and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development.

Since its establishment in 2003, more than 600 million people have been reached by programmes informed by evaluations by J-PAL affiliated researchers, and in 2019 its co-founders, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, along with longtime J-PAL affiliated professor Michael Kremer, won the Nobel prize in economics for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.