Since it is the poorest continent, produces less than 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and was not responsible for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, there is a strong case that Africa should not have to constrain its growth by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the future. The one exception may be South Africa, which produces 65 percent of Africa’s (and 1.5 percent of the world’s) emissions and, as a middle-income country, may have the capacity to curb emissions in the future. In a recent paper, Delfin Go, Sherman Robinson, Karen Thierfelder and I explore the costs to the South African economy of a tax on carbon emissions.
The two great challenges of the 21st century are the battle against poverty and the management of climate change. On both we must act strongly now and expect to continue that action over the coming decades. Our response to climate change and poverty reduction will define our generation. If we fail on either one of them, we will fail on the other. The current crisis in the financial markets and the economic downturn is new and immediate, although some years in the making. All three challenges require urgent and decisive action, and all three can be overcome together through determined and concerted efforts across the world. But whilst recognising that we must respond, and respond strongly, to all three challenges, we should also recognise the opportunities: a well-constructed response to one can provide great direct advantages and opportunities for the other.
Some readers and activists may question why the World Bank Group funds coal-fired power plants and yet professes to embrace sustainable development. The answer is that there is an urgent need for energy in the poor countries that we serve and indeed in my home country, China. There are roughly 1.6 billion people in developing countries--700 million of whom are in Africa and 550 million in South Asia--who lack access to electricity.
|Photo © Dominic Sansoni/World Bank|
The world's attention is sharply focused on the financial crisis right now. Even Europe, which has always pushed for climate change, has begun to talk about potentially postponing the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the world leaders can bail out the financial crisis, climate change is a crisis that’s already happening and will not wait. A green energy technology revolution can not only mitigate climate change, but also create jobs and stimulate economies.