Recently, with the call for nations to take action to help the environment, a new kind of inequality has emerged; renewable energy inequality. How can sustainable energy reach all? What are the barriers to every nation powering its economy with renewable energy? This article answers the question and much more.
The Fossil Fuel Advantage
While the world is trying to move away from energy sources that pollute the environment, there is no doubt that fossil fuel has transformed the global economy.
For more than 200 years, burning fossil fuels has been the catalyst for the world’s prosperity, enabling the world to industrialize.
This industrialization has made it possible to move into an age of higher productivity, income, and living standards.
However, the economic gains from fossil fuels have not been evenly spread. A select group of countries has strengthened their economy while other nations languish in poverty, with nothing much to show for the many decades the human race has burnt fossil fuel.
This inequality is evident in each nation’s contribution to greenhouse gases. According to the Center for Global Development (CGD), developed countries are responsible for 79 percent of historical carbon emissions. These countries include the US, the European Union, Japan, etc.
Developing countries are responsible for only 21 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, even though it is a global problem requiring a global solution.
The Unequal Footing In The Global Race For Renewable Energy
Oftentimes, nations of the world come together to discuss how to tackle the menace of pollution. These meetings include both developed and developing countries.
For example, last year, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, brought together 120 world leaders from every economic level. One of the decisions reached was to move away from fossil fuels by phasing out coal power.
Some nations with wealth accumulated from fossil-fuel-powered economies were reluctant to commit to a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
This would require them to increase the rate at which they close down coal-fired and other fossil-sourced power stations. They would also need to ramp up investments in renewable energy like wind and solar.
Developing countries may not even be in the position to contemplate closing down coal-fired power plants. To illustrate, more than 750 million people in the world still live without electricity, with the majority living in developing countries. About 2.6 billion still cook using unclean fuel like burning wood.
As a result, the global transition to renewable energy is not happening on a level playing field. The people needing cleaner energy most do not have access to it.
What Can Be Done To Make Access To Renewable Energy More Universal?
The push for a better environment through renewable energy is best done on a global scale because it is a global issue. Therefore, it is vital to make sure the barrier to entry for renewable energy is low enough for as many nations to sign up.
The major impediments to universal renewable energy are funding and technology.
Many cash-strapped nations may find it challenging to fund renewable energy projects. The solution is to secure funding.
For instance, at the COP 26 summit last year, developed countries acknowledged they had defaulted on their pledge to deliver US$100 billion a year to assist their lesser developed counterparts in climate finance.
Such funds could have helped set up renewable energy projects that would allow more people to escape energy poverty.
The good news was the more prosperous nations reaffirmed their commitment and promised to meet the goal in 2023.
Other funding sources include World Bank grants or loans, although the latter must be carefully structured so as not to become a burden for the borrowing nations.
Technological expertise is another problem developing nations may face when providing renewable energy for their citizens.
This may be solved by schemes that transfer technologies to these developing nations. When expertise grows, the installation and maintenance costs of renewable energy go down.
This is highly beneficial as it provides employment opportunities and allows the countries to grow independent energy-wise from their more affluent counterparts.
The race for renewable energy globally is not on an even note as some developing countries are at a disadvantage. However, with proper funding and technological empowerment, renewable energy can get to the people that need it most.