20 June 2010
Linking Climate Change to Poverty
There will be no global treaty on Climate Change without a solution for the poor.
The poor in every country are generally low emitters, and models of Low Carbon lives; yet because they are poor, it’s easy for their economic concerns to be swept aside in the global efforts to revive the big Energy systems.
One thing is clear, imposing a “dollar economy”, and thrusting international markets traded in American Dollars on the world’s poor is not the same as creating an environment for true social and sustainable development.
As John Gowdy makes clear in Section 5.4 of his article published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization “Behavioral economics and climate change policy”, the poor don’t need high consumption lifestyles :-
“Policy Sub-Clue 1b: development in poorer countries need not focus exclusively on increasing per capita consumption : “Development” in the third world need not follow the path of the industrialized nations during the twentieth century. Sen (1999) has called for an approach to development emphasizing the ability to live an informed and full life rather than concentrating solely on income creation. Nussbaum (2000, chapter 4 and website of Human Development and Capabilities Association) has gone further in calling for “distributive justice”, that is, creating the conditions for the realization of a set of central human capabilities. Such policies would not only be more effective than simple income growth in making lives better for the world’s poorest, but they would also help to alleviate the pressure on the environment from more economic production. With a focus on individual happiness and self actualization, the developing world could improve its position relative to the North without emulating the consumption frenzy that drove past economic growth.”
The Kyoto Protocol’s “flexible mechanism” known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is not working to provide adaptation funds to Africa :-
“The Kyoto Protocol and the CDM in Africa: a good idea but …”
“Does Geography Matter for the Clean Development Mechanism?”
The poor don’t need to be dragged into a Carbon Trading market, even if their governments are.
What the poor need is access to land, water and energy.
Around the world there are millions of people being made landless to satisfy the demands of large mining and agricultural interests. This is a retrograde trend, which certainly needs to be reversed.
In Latin America, the landless movements are making some headway, but consider the irony – Brazil prides itself on having cheap, clean BioEthanol for transportation, yet the sugarcane for this enterprise is harvested under appalling conditions by impoverished landless peasants :-
So keeping people landless works in favour of BioEnergy companies, so there is going to be an uphill struggle to make sure poor people have access to land.
Access to water caused a flashpoint in Colombia, when a program of “liberalisation” led to increased prices of privatised sources :-
But poor people need to be granted water, to grow the crops they need to survive, on the land they need to own.
I think it is fair to say that one of the biggest scourges of the poorest is night time. People need access to energy for light, at the very least. And it’s “small beer”, small change, to give people light, just as it is cheap to give poor people what they need to adapt their agriculture to Climate Change.
The International Energy Agency says that it would take $35 billion extra investment in energy annually until 2030 to provide electricity to the 1.3 billion people in the world that still don’t have it :-
“… International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighted in a recent report (November 2009)…It also noted 1.3 billion people will still lack access to electricity in 2030, compared with 1.5 billion today, adding that universal electricity access could be achieved with additional power-sector investment of $35bn annually until then – the assumption being a modest increase in overall primary energy demand and related CO2 emissions.”
That should be compared to the $26 trillion the world needs to spend on new energy investment by 2030 :-
In a policy for the poor of the world, the aim should be to enable energy access, without making the mistakes of the industrialised countries and getting locked into massive Fossil Fuel consumption.
By leapfrogging the Age of Burning Oil, Coal and Natural Gas for power, green energy will give a boost to, and enable, truly sustainable development for the poor.
What would be more costly would be to have to find the money to pay for all the Climate Change disasters, migration and serious adaptation that will be needed if Global Warming is made worse by trying to provide Fossil Fuel Energy to developing countries.