climate policy in poor countries

Two American academics have drafted a compelling op-ed for today’s Financial Times.

Having failed to stem carbon emissions in rich countries or in rapidly industrialising ones, policy makers have focused their attention on the only remaining target: poor countries that do not emit much carbon to begin with. ….

In Nigeria [for example], the UN Development Programme is spending $10m to help “improve the energy efficiency of a series of end-use equipment … in residential and public buildings”. As a way of lifting people out of poverty, this is fanciful at best. Nigeria is the world’s sixth-largest oil exporter, with vast reserves of natural gas as well. Yet 80m of its people lack access to electricity. Nigerians do not simply need their equipment to be more efficient; they need a copious supply of energy derived from plentiful local sources.

Or consider Pakistan, where energy shortages in a rapidly growing nation of 180m have led to civil unrest – as well as rampant destruction of forests, mostly to provide firewood for cooking and heating. Western development agencies have refused to finance a project to use Pakistan’s Thar coal deposits for low-carbon natural gas production and electricity generation because of concerns over carbon emissions. Half a world away, Germany is building 10 new coal plants over the next two years. ….

We in the rich world have chosen economic growth over emissions reductions. It is cruelly hypocritical of us to prevent poor countries from growing, too. If we are forced to adapt to life on a planet with a less hospitable climate, the poor should at least confront the challenge with the same advantages that are enjoyed by the rich.

Roger Pielke and Daniel Sarewitz, “Climate policy robs the world’s poor of their hopes“, Financial Times, 27 February 2014. (ungated link)

Political scientist Roger Pielke is a professor in the environmental studies programme at the University of Colorado. Geologist Daniel Sarewitz directs the Washington, D.C. office of Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes.

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