The poor to be sacrificed
Do not ask the poor to be sacrificed for climate change
Last week a draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the possible effects of global warming has been leaked to the press. The conclusions are particularly blatant, especially for the poorest countries, who will have to sacrifice once again to save the planet.
According to what has leaked, the commission intends to say that the world can soon reach a temperature where the Greenland ice layer will start to melt irreversibly. In a few centuries, this can increase the sea level to 7 meters.
The Obama administration has meanwhile revealed that it is seeking to conclude a strong agreement on carbon dioxide emissions at the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in the course of time – the strongest that it can achieve without the need for consensus American Senate.
The news of Obama’s pressure towards more aggressive action at the global level should sound particularly enjoyable to the ears of the poorest countries, as the developing world is the one most affected by climate change.
However, developing countries need more economic growth and more energy today – and nothing should stand in the way of progress. Although it would be nice to believe that no one exchanges sustainability with growth, this is undoubtedly a reality. And the future of tomorrow should not be borne by the poorest countries today.
There is a widespread, understandable desire to pretend that poor countries do not need to be polluted in order to grow – that they can, for example, escape their poverty without increasing their carbon dioxide emissions. A series of ‘Sustainable Development Objectives’ currently under negotiation before the signing of the UN World Leaders Meeting in 2015 will almost certainly talk about limiting climate change, preserving biodiversity and protecting forests and forests. oceans alongside poverty reduction and improving global health.
It is most likely that he will say little or nothing about the compromises made in relation to these objectives and instead he will say that they are all equally important pillars of support for the same broader program. But that’s not true – or at least not true yet.
Take for example the use of energy: global greenhouse gas emissions actually increased faster between 2000-2010 than in the past 30 years, according to the leaked IPCC document. This is not due to the rich countries, the US and the UK, among others, have achieved emission reductions over the last decade. Instead, carbon dioxide emissions have increased, as developing countries are developing rapidly, and as a result, energy consumption has increased. Increased energy use remains at the center of growth in low- and middle-income countries. And the cheapest, most reliable form of energy remains fossil fuels.
Climate change is not the biggest challenge faced by the developing world today. The IPCC report makes an incomplete estimate that the cost of raising the temperature by 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may reach 2% of global income. The greater of this weight will fall on the shoulders of the developing world. And as the temperature of the planet rises above 2.5C, the cost will grow exponentially.
But it is worthwhile to compare the potential cost of climate change for the next century, with growth rates over the next two decades needed to eradicate absolute poverty in less privileged countries. To reach poverty eradication of $ 1.25 per day by 2030, developing countries where the poorest people in the world live should grow by about 4.5 percent each year from 2012 to 2030.
To reach anywhere close to the quality of life in the US, income and energy consumption in poorer countries must increase in size. Consider that average income in a country like Tanzania is equivalent to 3% of the average income in the US (purchasing power). Even doubling Tanzania’s income, the country would still be hopelessly poor. Electricity consumption per person in East African countries is 92 kilowatt-hours per year. Americans burn an equal amount in two and a half days.
The same applies to China, which is responsible for the largest amount of gas emissions in the world. In 2007, more than a quarter of the country’s population still lived with less than $ 2 a day, about a seventh of the US poverty line. China needs to see much more economic growth and energy production if it wants most of its population to reach consumption levels that are still considered as levels of poverty in the US.
Nevertheless, there are things that the poorest countries could and should do today that would be so in their immediate interest but could also help the environment.
One example: Fuel subsidies in developing countries still amount to about 1 trillion dollars, according to the International Monetary Fund. In 2010, Iran reduced massive fossil fuel subsidies and diverted the amount it saved to 80% of the population. For poor people, transport costs more than half of their income. This measure alone has led to a reduction in carbon emissions, an increase in economic efficiency and a reduction in inequality all at the same time.
And it is undoubtedly true that if we want to avoid Climate Armageddon, poor countries will have to become rich, using much less carbon than the countries that are rich today. But before wealthy countries ask the world’s poorest people to switch to renewable energy, they need to make sure that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy that poor people can access.
Rich countries need to provide support for the development of modern energy production infrastructure, research and the development of cheaper production methods (and, if necessary, storage) of renewable energy and, as a last resort, subsidies for solar, wind, hydro, nuclear or other form of renewable electricity production in poor countries.
So far, the rich countries have largely failed on this front by providing just 0.2% of the developing country’s gross domestic product to funding each year for climate change mitigation and adaptation, which is largely the case from existing aid and development finance budgets.
It is a logical concern for developing countries that the support lines used so far to finance development, health and education will be re-routed from now on to strengthen infrastructure adaptation and climate change mitigation, even if these countries would prefer this money to be given for other purposes.
A greenhouse gas emission tax in the rich world could be an appropriate source of revenue to provide additional research investment to reduce costs and increase the reliability of renewable energy sources or to finance measures against climate change change in the poor world.
But, no matter how rich countries choose to increase extra funding, one thing is clear: People who consume less electricity than the average American refrigerator, having one-fifty of these US income and dying from diseases that can be cured with antibiotics costing only a few cents should not be called to be sacrificed even more today for the sake of tomorrow. They are already being sacrificed.