Helping Poor Nations Switch to Clean Energy Could Bring a $100 Billion Renewable Boom


Photo via MGX

Two of the key questions in negotiating a global climate treaty in Copenhagen right now is how much funding rich nations should be giving industrializing ones to help them develop and produce clean energy. Rich nations like the US and many in the EU got to industrialize powered by coal and oil, so if we want them to develop with cleaner power, then we should be willing to lend a hand, right? Of course, this gets cast as a dire hurdle by the media--the New York Times' headline warns Climate Deal Likely to Bear Big Price Tag. But this is the wrong way to think about it. In fact, some studies have suggested that investing in renewable energy in developing countries could lead to a $100 billion boom in the solar industry.It's disconcerting to see the media continue to frame this investment as a 'giveaway'--it only serves to build opposition to the droves that feel we don't owe developing countries anything. And that's exactly how the Times frames it:

"The money would be used to help developing nations reduce emissions by switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar and by compensating landowners for not cutting down or burning forests, a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.
It's like it's one giant philanthropic fund from the rich world to the poor--but that shouldn't be the case at all.

Instead, as Susan Kraemer at Clean Technica points out, the media should be analyzing the potential benefits that such an investment could have on the world economy. She writes:

this is an investment in solar and wind and flood wall businesses. The real beneficiaries are the countries whose renewable energy businesses will grow from this investment. A more appropriate headline might be: Climate Deal Likely to Bring Big Boom to Renewable Sector.

This so-called giveaway is not from the developed to the developing world, but from the developed world's governments to their own developing companies in the post carbon age. Their own renewable energy companies will benefit - and add jobs.

How much might they benefit? Two think tanks, San Francisco-based ClimateWorks and The EU's Project Catalyst; whose work has helped shape the negotiations in Copenhagen estimate that this investment globally will amount to about $100 billion by 2020. Just from this assistance fund.

These are the right things to be considering in determining how to allocate aid--not dragging our feet because we have to give poor nations money. Let's consider how the burgeoning renewables industry could benefit--and how American companies could profit by investing in such projects abroad. A thriving renewable sector could bolster developing nations' economies and present real opportunities--so let's stop complaining that it will be so expensive to bail out poor polluting nations, and start asking the right questions.

Read Kraemer's piece at Clean Technica
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Tags: Alternative Energy | Clean Energy | Developing Nations