Given the huge disparity between the contributions made to GHG emissions by the First World when compared with less developed nations, it’s hardly surprising that, a lot of the time, cleantech projects are aimed very much at the West.
Innovations and initiatives such as jet fuels produced from algae, wave disk generator engines, or government incentives for investing in photovoltaic panels, to pick three examples at random, obviously aim to benefit the planet as a whole, but are very much targeted at societies where people have enough disposable income to put money towards flights, cars, and independent energy production.
Of course, to an extent, this is because only these countries have the resources to fund and carry out the level of R&D that goes into such technologies, but even if this weren’t the case, focusing efforts in this why makes a great deal of sense, especially when we consider that, going by The World Bank’s figures, the average annual per capita CO2 emissions of a US resident is 18 metric tonnes, whilst in a country such as Uganda, it’s only 0.1 tonnes (a mere 0.6% of that American figure.)
However, whilst reducing the energy consumption of a nation that has built its infrastructure around a massive dependence on fossil fuels is a considerable political and cultural challenge, using technology to bring down the already small carbon footprint of a developing nation can be a much more straight forward task.
From a cleantech perspective, developing nations offer ‘low hanging fruit’, where something as simple as the quick-fix of more efficient stove designs can have a large impact on a community’s energy consumption, and, at the same time, greatly increase the quality of life enjoyed in the area. For example, in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda (where 95% of cooking is done using fuel wood) a recent project conducted by Climate Care to disseminate stoves that burn more efficiently has helped reduced the amount of wood needed for fuel by locals, helping to reduce both deforestation and the proportion of income families are forced to spend on fuel.
Likewise, in Ghana, where deforestation is being carried out at one of the highest rates in Africa (thanks largely to charcoal production for cooking), the distribution of insulated stoves, or ‘Gyapas’ as they’re known, has helped families to reduce their charcoal consumption by up to 25%. The project has saved over 72,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent already, and by 2016 is expected to save in excess of 800,000 tonnes.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan villages around Badakhshan are having their dependency on kerosene lamps ended by the installation of hydro electric power stations which are managed locally having been built with the help of engineers from Germany working in conjunction with the Afghan government’s Energy Supply for Rural Areas programme, allowing communities to benefit for the first time form a reliable source of electricity, provided in a sustainable way.
Whilst, undoubtedly, people will always see the ultimate end of cleantech to be the discovery of some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ system of energy production that will allow the lifestyles enjoyed in the most prosperous parts of the world to be maintained, it should be remembered that, for much of the world, it’s incredibly simple pieces of technology that stand to make the biggest difference.
Author Bio: Steve Waller writes on a wide range of environmental issues from alternative energy sources to green politics on his site, GreenSteve.com.