Photo via Outlook India
It's yet another wrinkle in the heated climate talks between rich nations and developing ones: the latest UN report on developing nations' energy needs has found that in order for them to grow without contributing heavily to climate change, they're going to need at least a stunning $500 billion a year to do so. This of course complicates matters, as nations like China and India grapple with requests from nations like the United States to make binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Previously, it was thought that around $100 billion a year would be enough to help nations develop sustainably, in order to minimize use of energy from polluting sources like coal plants. So far, only $21 billion has actually been committed to combating climate change. The developing nations are demanding more financial commitment to help them reduce emissions,
The crux of the debate can essentially be summed up thus: Industrialized nations--especially the US--want developing ones to set binding emissions reduction targets before they're willing to help fund the emissions-curbing process. Developing nations want the rich ones to commit to financial aid for such reductions before they set any targets. And around we go.
That new 500 billion number, to be sure, isn't going to help anything. As the New York Times notes:
That astronomical estimate, far higher than any previously suggested by the United Nations, comes at a time when developed and developing nations are still deeply divided over who bears the responsibility for shouldering the expense of deploying cleaner energy resources.Indeed. With the Copenhagen global climate talks drawing near, this is bad news--$500 billion dollars is around 1% of the entire global economic output. But it may be absolutely necessary--the number comes from the estimated cost of supplying developing nations with solar, wind, or other renewable energy while they create needed infrastructure.
Proposed solutions to coming up with such a mighty annual sum include a global carbon tax, and a public investment program that's been compared to the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after WWII.
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