The heavy reliance on traditional biomass for energy among households in eastern Africa has significant negative health and environmental impacts. As Africa seeks to increase household energy access at scale, it does so in a substantially different context from other regions that have confronted this challenge in the past, given that it coincides with major global climate ambitions, as well as a global sustainable development agenda that explicitly calls for interactions between development targets to be recognized and managed: the 2030 Agenda.

Policies to improve household energy access potentially interact with several of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among them Climate Action (Goal 13), Good Health and Well-being (Goal 3), and Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7). This study uses an integrated assessment model to simulate the impact of land policies and technology subsidies, as well as interactions between them, on greenhouse gas emissions, exposure to air pollution and energy access in eastern Africa, under a range of socioeconomic pathways.

The study finds that land policies that aim to increase the sustainable production of biomass resources can reduce GHG emissions in the region by about 10%, but also slightly delay progress in health and energy access goals. An optimized portfolio of energy technology subsidies consistent with a global Green Climate Funds budget of US$30–35 billion could yield another 10% savings in GHG emissions, while decreasing mortality related to air pollution by 20%, and improving energy access by up to 15%.

After 2030, both land and technology policies become both less effective and more dependent on the overall development path of the region. The analysis shows that support for biogas technology should be prioritized in both the short and long terms, while financing LPG and ethanol technologies also has synergistic benefits for climate, health and energy access. Financing PV technologies is mostly relevant for improving energy access, while charcoal and to a lesser extend fuelwood technologies are relevant for curbing GHG emissions if their finance is linked to land policies.

Overall, the exercise demonstrates that integrated policy analysis is needed in the African context in order to identify those policy pathways that have the best chance of achieving simultaneous progress towards multiple SDGs.