Since so many organizations, governments and committed people work for the eradication of poverty, energy planners, technologists and policy makers need not to change their focus. At the same time, this is a perfect opportunity, timing, a critical juncture, which could be used to achieve multiple goals of greening the energy sources and increasing the energy security, while at the same time eradicating poverty by striving towards mitigating climate change.
The goals for poverty eradication, environmental protection and securing energy supplies can be combined. Low carbon energy sources and green energy technologies can contribute for the development and eradication of poverty in many different ways. Investments for implementing the available green energy technologies could provide more jobs, adequate energy to fuel the economic and social activities by reducing carbon emissions, atmospheric pollution and mitigating climate change. A policy atmosphere, which supports or gives priority to such green energy investments could reduce poverty, protect environment and mitigate climate change.
The biggest challenge that poverty eradication projects faced so far has been the availability of sufficient funds, viability of livelihood projects or the longevity of income generation projects. Here we have an assurance or an urge to mobilize funds to mitigate climate change. There is no question of reluctance, as the world saw the heat of debates in Copenhagen. Humanity reached a point of no return when it comes to climate change mitigation. So, funds and political will surely be forthcoming. By integrating the poor into these climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, humanity can come out of still persisting poverty.
The climate change convention (COP15) in Copenhagen witnessed the concern and anticipation of world about global warming. Though the convention couldn’t produce a binding agreement over the CO2 emitters to achieve deep cut in emissions, the summit gave an impression that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts will be strengthened in the coming years. Through the Copenhagen accord (2009), developed countries agreed to provide $30 billion to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts for the period 2010-12. The result oriented utilization of these funds in the affected/vulnerable countries need to be integrated with development projects. Such an integrated and combined implementation of adaptation and mitigation projects will have multiple benefits. Successive climate change conventions will offer more resources for mitigation and adaptation as the polluters become mature enough to take the complete responsibility in resolving the imminent danger of global warming through the upcoming negotiations. Even though not sufficient, the $100 billion per year commitment by developed countries by 2020 symbolizes a growing effort from the polluters’ side. The projected fund of $100 billion for climate change mitigation for developing countries can achieve its goal of mitigation with a beneficial outcome of poverty eradication along with it.
Starting from the bottom, more than 3 billion people including the rural house holds, almost all in low and middle income countries, rely on solid fuels for energy which are the source of atmospheric pollution and causing respiratory diseases including pneumonia, and other acute lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer (Bousquet at al., 2007). This is because of the traditional methods of cooking, heating and lighting which uses dung, wood, crop waste or coal in domestic hearths, simple stoves with incomplete combustion. Particularly, women and children are more exposed to indoor air pollution resulting in an estimated 1.51.8 million premature deaths a year. “In Africa, approximately 1 million of these deaths occur in children aged under 5 years as a result of acute respiratory infections. 700 000 occur as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 120 000 are attributable to cancer in adults particularly in women’’ (Bousquet et al., 2007, P – 46).
This reliance on solid fuels and its incomplete combustion in inefficient hearths and simple stoves by more than 3 billion people create a strong barrier to achieve the MDGs in its full scale. Because it creates a web of complex realities from which the bottom billions can’t escape, i. e., the indoor air pollution that leads to many diseases, and the most affected group is women and children. They suffer in multiple ways, have to spend many hours to collect firewood, and have to spend the almost same amount of time for cooking and other household duties, which expose them to the polluted indoor. This reality has to be changed. The world of poor and vulnerable needs efficient and clean sources of energy. This is an important and urgent necessity. Universal availability of clean sources of energy and energy efficient appliances are part of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Both grid based and off-grid energy solutions for house hold energy use can transform rural life. Substituting firewood with renewable energy could protect environment and reduce pollution related diseases. Off grid solutions like solar, biogas, wind, small hydro (of course all these small energy generation units can be connected to grid as well) can provide energy as well as jobs for the rural population. Changing the use of solid fuels for house hold energy towards grid electricity, solar, wind, gas and other bio fuels need investment, technology, political will and policy making; but considering the externalities and other health, environmental and economic benefits, change is beneficial in long run. In this regard, Sagar et al, (2009) points out that, “There is a significant gap between existing innovation process and what is needed, especially in developing countries, to meet the range of inter related energy, climate and developmental challenges facing them’’. In order to bridge this gap of technology and particular nature of local necessities, Sagar et al (2009, p. 283) suggests the establishment of a network of Climate Innovation Centers (CIC) “which uses public-private sector partnerships aimed at developing/adapting technologies and products for climate mitigation and adaptation and overcoming to barriers to market, informed by local needs and contexts, could play an important role’’. They estimates, each CIC would require an investment of $40 million to $100 million per year and costs a cumulative investment of $1 billion to $2.5 billion in order to establish five such regional CICs for a period of five years, as first phase.
Jeffrey Sachs (2005, p. 41), the architect of MDGs notes in his path breakingwork on ‘the end of poverty and economic possibilities’, “I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them’’. So let the technology and related know how transmit to the needy under developed regions of the world, let the local ideas to grow and integrate with the mature technologies, thereby contributing local solutions to global challenges. In this context, the idea of establishing Climate Innovation Centers deserves particular consideration.
This chapter tried to explain the intrinsic relation between poverty, environment and climate change in the context of energy generation, consumption and its availability.
Even though poverty is a locally reflected problem, its impacts are global. Presumably poverty in a remote African or south Asian village does affect the people living in developed world by the medium of climate change. It is possible that climate change mitigation and adaptation projects could be combined with poverty eradication and development programmes as well as with green energy and low carbon electricity generation projects.
All the investments in green energy solutions are not necessarily directly related to poverty eradication, but all the green energy solutions are environment friendly, low carbon sources of energy and electricity. Investments for wind and solar energy farms can develop a rural area, and at the same time can give business to some where else, where the components are being manufactured. Same is the case even with off grid solutions like solar lanterns, which illuminates rural households. Biogas plants and heat efficient stoves can take rural households out of indoor pollution and related respiratory diseases.
Natural calamities, especially climate change related ones, throws millions of people out of their livelihoods, thereby inducing the incidence of poverty. While devising energy policy and investment decisions policy makers should give priority to the interest of those vulnerable and deprived sections of people. This can be done by making such group of people the first beneficiaries for tailor made energy solutions specifically designed and planned for particular regions. Taking into consideration geographic and human factors, the poverty ridden underdeveloped parts of the world are also endowed with resources for renewable energy generation. By promoting investment (both public and private) in such energy projects could create hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly, there by offering opportunity and energy for work and other productive activities for the local population. Illuminating a home means giving light and learning time for the younger generation. Equipping house holds with energy efficient stoves and alternatives to solid fuels provide healthy indoors, which is necessary to empower women and children, leading to greater social development. In short, eradication of poverty leads to protection of environment; investments in green energy solutions create jobs and opportunities; and generating electricity from green sources mitigate climate change and provide energy security, and induce overall economic and social development.