Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, has some good reasons to be skeptical about all the ambitious plans and ideas floating around the Clinton Global Initiative. There's a lot of talk about exciting, futuristic ideas: the mass deployment of electric cars with matching infrastructure! Gigantic solar power plants in the Sahara Desert that pipes clean energy to Europe! But as a panelist on a discussion on developing infrastructure today, Annan articulated some very reasonable concerns about all these grand schemes. You could sum up those concerns in two words:Why Kofi Annan is Skeptical about Clean Technology
Developing nations. While the CEO of Nisson/Renault excitedly talked about bringing electric cars to the mainstream, outfitting cities with charging stations, and phasing out gas guzzlers, Annan called attention to the developing world. He made an extremely valid point:
I find electric cars very interesting ... but how do you ensure that the new technology is also available to 3rd world, so they don't repeat mistakes of past? How do they get electric car?Or are they going to get the old polluting cars, he wondered. "Or do you plan to help them transition to the new technology?"
The question remained unanswered.
Annan went on to note that the giant solar plant proposed for the Sahara Desert seems like a grand idea, but he wondered whether the people who lived next door to the facility would be able to profit from it at all.
These points are entirely valid--electric cars are fantastic, and may provide an affordable alternative to fossil fuel consuming cars to the developed world soon. But the question of how to make EV technology feasible in the developing world--where the number of cars on the road are skyrocketing--isn't often addressed. Same goes with renewable energies, though there's more discussion going on that topic, and solar is becoming flexible enough to provide to poor regions.
So Kofi Annan used the opportunity to assert that developed nations must share their technology with the poor ones for an effective agreement to be reached in Copenhagen. "You must consider the developing world," Anan said.
And he's absolutely right--with the number of cars on the streets rising at astronomical rates in China and India, along with general CO2 emissions, getting electric cars and renewable energy into the developed world is less than half the battle.
More on Clinton Global Initiative 2009
TreeHugger Talks Climate with Bill Clinton
The Next Innovation Al Gore Most Wants to See--You May Be Surprised