Could clean energy reverse climate change? Could continued investment in renewable energy alternatives liberate the world’s poor and put an end to poverty? Could large-scale solar power and hydropower projects increase efficiency and provide cheap, clean power to millions of people all over the world who currently live without access to reliable electricity?
According to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the “Sustainable Energy for All Initiative” could accomplish all of the above, and more.
“This is the right time for the initiative,” Ban is quoted as saying in an article in this week’s Boston Globe. “Across the world we see momentum building for concrete action that reduces energy poverty, catalyzes sustainable growth, and mitigates climate change. Achieving sustainable energy is both feasible and necessary.”
Ban Ki-moon is calling for international governments and the private sector to ramp up sustainable energy investments because he believes these efforts could fundamentally change the quality of life for billions of people currently living without power.
“Why should energy poverty condemn billions to darkness, to missed opportunities for education and prosperity?” He asks, explaining that, “It is neither just nor sustainable that one in five lacks access to modern electricity. It is not acceptable that three billion people have to rely on wood, coal, or charcoal for cooking and heating. We need to turn on the lights for all households. To do that we need to scale up success examples of clean energy and energy-efficient technology. We need innovation that can spread throughout the developing world where energy demand is growing fastest.”
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who supports the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, acknowledged that China’s position as the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions has inspired the country to make “sustained endeavors to reduce energy consumption and emission in industrial, transport, and construction sectors”, efforts that have resulted in a 20% decrease in emissions between 2005 and 2010.
“The final solution to any future energy problem does not lie with the possession of energy resources,” Wen is quoted as saying, “but possession of high technology and breakthrough in science and technology. Developed countries with advanced technology should, while protecting intellectual property rights, provide and transfer technologies to developing and underdeveloped countries.”
So what do you think? The government of China has demonstrated a willingness to provide aid to its own domestic burgeoning clean tech industry, so does this statement in support of Ban Ki-moon’s initiative indicate that the Chinese government sees some sort of benefit—beyond humanitarianism—behind providing clean tech to the developing world? Does it seem likely the US will jump on this global clean tech initiative if issues like Iran’s nuclear program are not addressed? And will we see a proliferation of clean tech in the developing world in the same vein as the technology jump that allowed countries to “skip” infrastructure investments in their communication systems when the ubiquity of the cell phone made power lines obsolete?
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