Nov 29 2011

Technology solutions to climate change can be hugely effective – and do not need to be expensive

This is the third in the series of LabourList link-ups with SERA during the Copenhagen summit.

One of the first rules of journalism is apparently “simplify, then exaggerate’. Judging from some of the press coverage and subsequent comments in the new media from the Copenhagen Summit this week, the rule appears to hold true.

While it is easy to become bogged down in arguments over leaked data and the number of flights being taken by delegates to Copenhagen, the principles of Copenhagen should be undisputed.  Principles of equality and social justice need to be at the core of these discussions, for it is always those that are least resilient who will be hardest hit.

Those who argue against the a global agreement state that it will either be prohibitively expensive or that it is a form of neo-colonialism that will stop poorer countries from developing. Technology transfer one of the key issues being discussed in Copenhagen this week. The Carbon Trust argues against technology transfer saying that either the technology does not exist yet, or the infrastructure (human and physical) is missing in the developing world to take it up. This misses the point somewhat in that it assumes all technological solutions must be high-tech and therefore expensive.

Climate Frontline, a recent NGO-produced document, details the low-tech and local adaptation strategies being used in Africa, supported by charities such as Concern Universal. A British sustainable designer, Emily Cummins, recently created a sustainable fridge which requires no electricity and is now used in Africa to store medicines. Small-scale renewable energy generators do not require large-scale national grid infrastructure and provide economic opportunities at a local level, such as those being promoted by SolarAid. Importantly, these are technologies that already exist.

Such solutions are not necessarily expensive and are often community-based, but they do require support.  Labour’s commitment to international development, as explained by Douglas Alexander in SERA’s latest pamphlet, is critical in providing this support and intrinsically linked to whatever is agreed in Copenhagen this month. Our basic principle of equality, and equality of opportunity to face new challenges, is fundamental to these global debates.
This article first appeared on Labour List in December 2009.

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