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CLIMATE CHANGE: The Developing South Holds the Key

BARCELONA, Jun 7 2011 (IPS) - Developing countries, which have huge potential for growth and are home to the majority of the world’s people still living without electricity, will play a fundamental role in combating climate change, according to some experts.

Developing countries must focus on clean energy, says Christiana Figueres. Credit: Inés Benítez/IPS

Developing countries must focus on clean energy, says Christiana Figueres. Credit: Inés Benítez/IPS

“The developing countries must develop clean electricity. What we cannot allow is for them to develop access to traditional electricity,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in an interview with Tierramérica.

Efforts should be focused on the developing South, because that is where industry, population and the demand for energy are growing, stressed Figueres, who was in the southern Spanish city of Barcelona for the eighth edition of Carbon Expo, the leading international trade fair and conference on climate and carbon finance, emissions trading and low-carbon technologies

“The challenge is to fight climate change by taking advantage of the strong growth expected in developing countries,” added Figueres, a native of Costa Rica. “The development of the countries of the North was based on the generation of extreme amounts of pollution,” she noted.

At the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16), held in Cancún in 2010, an agreement was reached to establish a Green Climate Fund to assist poor nations with climate change mitigation and adaptation and the development of green economies.

The countries of the industrialised North pledged to deliver 30 billion dollars in financing by 2012 and 100 billion annually by 2020.

But “the signals that came out of Cancún were not strong enough to redirect the large quantities of capital needed towards clean technologies,” added Figueres.

In order to make progress towards green economies a dual effort is needed, involving governments, who must adapt laws and standards, and the private sector, which has the capital to invest in less-polluting technologies.

“Investment is needed in the sectors of electricity generation, transportation, waste management, forestry and decentralised energy provision in rural areas,” Figueres told Tierramérica.

The U.N. official stressed the importance of moving “towards a future of green technology” and called on governments and the private sector to play their part, because this goal can only be achieved through “team work”.

Global carbon emissions in 2010 were five percent higher than in 2008, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This is “a reminder to all of the world’s governments that action is urgently needed and we cannot offer partial or short-term solutions,” said Figueres.

The IEA reports that carbon dioxide emissions reached a record 30,600 megatons last year, which is very close to the limit of 32,000 megatons that should not be reached until 2020 in order to ensure that the global increase in temperature does not surpass two degrees.

If the global temperature increases by more than two degrees this century, a climate disaster would be inevitable, scientists say.

Commitments aimed at reverting this trend will need to be established at COP 17, scheduled for the end of the year in South Africa. Technical and political teams are meeting Jun. 6-16 in Bonn, Germany to work towards greater consensus among the countries involved in the negotiations.

Carbon Expo, organised Jun. 1-3 by the World Bank and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), brought together over 3,000 participants to review the latest developments in climate financing and discuss business.

Spanish Secretary of State for Climate Change Teresa Ribera agreed with Figueres that “the climate change economy must benefit the developing countries, which are the most vulnerable, and also need the biggest increase in capital and capacity to achieve greater well-being for their populations.”

Ribera told Tierramérica that Spain is taking advantage of carbon markets as a “useful tool” to promote a different model of development and the preservation of forests in Latin America.

“We have done it with friendly countries in Central America and South America. Along with them we have learned about carbon accounting and the carbon cycle, which has allowed us to work together on small-scale projects for sustainable forest development,” she said.

Working through the Inter-American Development Bank, the Andean Development Corporation and the World Bank, Spain demands that the public financing it provides is allocated to projects, preferably in Latin America, related to clean energy and responsible waste management.

These are “small investments that are welcomed by local communities to promote this link between greater social benefit and environmental protection, which is good in itself, but is also profitable,” said Ribera.

*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.

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