April 8, 2014
Giving the poor access to reliable modern energy offers a better route to address global challenges, climate and energy, scholars say in a new report, Our High-Energy Planet.
The report is the first of the Climate Pragmatism project, led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes in partnership with The Breakthrough Institute.
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“Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people,” said Daniel Sarewitz, a report co-author and CSPO co-director. “The key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean and reliable power.”
Given the pivotal relationship between abundant energy access and human development, climate change must be addressed within the context of poor nations gaining access to modern energy.
The report criticizes the United Nations, International Energy Agency and other energy initiatives as too low to drive sustained human development. The UN’s standard for basic access is just enough electricity to power a fan, two light bulbs and a radio for a few hours a day.
Calls for more equitable energy access are gaining traction, with increasing bipartisan support for the Electrify Africa Act, alongside President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to double energy access in sub-Saharan Africa.
The massive expansion of energy systems, mainly carried out in rapidly urbanizing developing nations, is the most robust, coherent and ethical response to the global challenges humans face – climate change among them – the authors argue.
Emphasizing that innovation is the key to reducing emissions while expanding energy access, the report points out that power sectors are growing at breakneck speed in emerging nations and their development creates tremendous opportunities for innovation.