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I Have a Dream: The fight against Climate Change & Economic Development are Not Incompatible

Average: 4.3 (3 votes)
Jul 31, 2015 / 0 Comments
   
Photo: MEDCOP21

The common view is that climate change exacerbates poverty and hurts economic growth. Economic development has contributed to an unsustainable rise in the greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilising the global climate system. There is now a consensus that climate change affects development and challenges the ability to eradicate poverty. Moreover, climate policies are deemed too costly for developing countries.

 

“Climate change represents a direct and immediate threat to poverty alleviation. It’s important that we bring the climate and poverty communities together to design interventions that are effective for both,” says Marianne Fay, the World Bank Group’s chief economist for climate change.

 

I have a dream that strong and coordinated policy actions can both halt climate change and spur economic growth for the benefits of all, including the poorest.

 

At MEDCOP21, I had a revelation that climate change and economic development are not antonymic, and that well aligned economic, fiscal, trade, energy and sectoral policies can contribute to greener, more resilient and inclusive growth. And that the Mediterranean was an ideal testing ground for a practical implementation of a coordinated and consistent approach to solving climate change and development problems. I heard several examples throughout the two days of concrete projects actually happening and contributing to both CO2 emission reductions and welfare improvements.

 

The Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, plagued by the risk of increasing scarcity of water resources, extreme natural phenomena and intense desertification. At the same time, due to its geographical position—with both resource endowment and proximity to markets starving for low carbon energy supplies--, the Mediterranean offers great potential for development of low carbon solutions at low cost, thanks to its vast renewable energy potential. It is an ideal place to test the “double dividend” theory.

 

As we have seen before, regional market integration facilitates, and lowers the cost of, large-scale development of renewable energy. An integrated Euro-Med energy market offers opportunities to achieve a more efficient allocation of energy resources, both between and across the Europe and MENA regions. Several speakers during the Round Table on Financing stated that opening of markets in Europe to green electricity from the southern shore would have a multiplier effect and accelerate deployment of low carbon technologies—and money would flow in (see also blog by the Round Table moderator Melissa Bell). Trade policies have a key role to play in the creation of markets as they can promote fair competition, leverage economies of scale and facilitate knowledge transfer.

 

I have a dream that climate change mitigation policies can, beyond halting global warming, contribute to industrial development and job creation.

 

We heard a concrete example during the Energy Workshop, and this is the Morocco Solar Plan—happening in a country that attracted a lot of attention and praise throughout the two days of MEDCOP21 (in the latest Germanwatch climate change performance index, Morocco ranks first among all developing countries assessed). The development of the country’s solar resources is not only improving energy security and mitigating climate change, but it is also driving the development of new industries, and consequently creating jobs. Various associated activities are creating local clusters and spurring innovation and local R&D capabilities. Moreover, the solar plants create social and economic benefits for the local population where the plants are located. At the end of July, MASEN, the Moroccan solar agency tasked with implementation of the Morocco Solar Plan and related activities, announced a new partnership with a major global technology player, a partnership that will position MASEN as a major CSP player throughout the African continent.

 

I have a dream that climate change policies can improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable population.

 

During the Energy Workshop, we also heard of an initiative, led by AFD, to retrofit social housing throughout North Africa to improve energy efficiency. The primary objective is to decrease the energy intensity of social housing, but the initiative will also lead to know-how transfer, creation of new local firms in the building sector and skill development (all leading to new jobs). A recent report for the European Commission by the INSIGHT_E think tank identifies energy efficiency improvements in the housing sector through building refurbishing as a key element of a strategy to address energy poverty.

 

I have a dream that technology deploys fast enough to transition the Mediterranean to a low carbon economy during our children lifetime.

 

To succeed the transition to a low carbon economy, technology has to be available and affordable. Technology was present everywhere at MEDCOP21, at the Solution Village where so many inventors displayed their new ideas, and in all the talks. But mostly it was there in the form of the solar boat “Planet Solar”. With cost of renewable energy falling rapidly and technical grid integration issues on the verge of being resolved, producing 100% electricity from renewables is considered feasible in many countries. The next big challenge is the transport sector that is responsible for a growing part of world CO2 emissions. Planet Solar was impressive. And exactly one month after MEDCOP21, the solar plane Solar Impulse broke a new record by crossing the Pacific. I remember it was exactly three years ago that Solar Impulse made its first sea crossing to fly from Switzerland to Morocco, and I was there (see blog). Amazing how much progress was made in just three years. I will try to be there to welcome Solar Impulse after it crosses the Atlantic ocean, its next big challenge. It does show what you can do with simple small solar cells if you believe in it!!!

 

I have a dream that all Mediterranean countries unite to win the battle against climate change and transition to a sustainable growth path.

 

Key to achieving this will be greater engagement and cooperation between governments, private sector and civil society all around the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean’s quest for secure, affordable and low-carbon energy is not just about supplying that energy, but rather about creating a strategically important sector that can drive economic growth, attract and retain the best talent, and create competitive and long-term markets for both the energy and the technologies to produce it.

 

Integration is the name of the game: regional market integration and integration of climate issues into economic, fiscal, trade and sectoral policies.

 

By working together, Mediterranean countries can tackle climate, social and economic challenges more rapidly, more effectively and at lower cost. Cooperation is a prerequisite to success! 

Silvia Pariente-David

Silvia Pariente-David was the first Task Team Leader of the Noor-Ouarzazate World Bank solar power project in Morocco. Having now retired from the World Bank, she continues, as an advisor, to help with the development of Morocco’s solar plants. She is also involved in several interconnector projects to help create a Euro-Med energy market and advises occasionally the Center for Mediterranean Integration on climate and Mediterranean integration issues.

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