Excitement as Water, Air and Energy Lab launched in City

Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Published Mar 19, 2024


With lessons learned from the brink of “Day Zero”, drought and energy procurement plans, the City has partnered with a global research centre to launch a new research lab.

The Water, Air and Energy (WAE) Lab launched by the municipality, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and the Community Jameel is expected to co-generate evidence and inform policies that effectively improve access to clean air, water and reliable energy for Capetonians.

The evidence generated will also be relevant to growing urban centres in the rest of South Africa and low- and middle-income countries globally.

Policymakers, researchers from across the world and distinguished speakers, including Nobel Prize laureates Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, were among those in attendance at the launch in the Banquet Hall, Civic Centre, recently.

“As we address the current energy crisis and seek to prevent future water crisis, we will utilise the city’s innovative data systems and work with researchers to rigorously evaluate and scale policy and technological innovations that will positively impact residents,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

According to J-PAL, the African continent’s population is projected to double between 2020 and 2050.

Two-thirds of the growth will happen in cities and urban areas and the additional demand for limited water and energy can strain infrastructure and compete to make the resources scarce.

Solutions to these problems were found to be scarce, often because data and evidence on policies that work were limited.

WAE Lab scientific advisor from the University of California, Kelsey Jack, said not only were clean air, water and reliable electricity essential for communities to thrive, but ensuring access to these resources will become increasingly challenging with progressing climate change and growing inequality.

“This partnership provides a unique opportunity to support a culture of learning and innovation in government that will lead to better policies and programs for people who need them most,” said Jack.

The WAE Lab is expected to expand access to and use of high-quality air, water and energy data.

It will also generate evidence on promising solutions through pilots and randomised evaluations and determine which ones should be scaled up.

J-PAL Africa executive director Vinayak Bhardwaj said as climate impacts increasingly cut across all sectors and threaten to reverse decades of poverty alleviation, urgent action was needed.

“J-PAL Africa is eager to partner with decision-makers throughout the continent to inform the development and scaling of policies and programs with evidence.”

Cape Times