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Symposium 2010

Proposal - Contribution from Dato Ir. Lee Yee-Cheong, Malaysia

The Challenge

Climate change poses the serious challenge of carbon dioxide emission reduction. Emission control by developing countries is becoming a key for effective mitigation of climate change, as those count ...

Climate change poses the serious challenge of carbon dioxide emission reduction. Emission control by developing countries is becoming a key for effective mitigation of climate change, as those countries now account for more than a half of global emissions and are still expanding their energy infrastructure.

In the GES 2010 Preview on this Panel, the Burden to ameliorate the adverse effects of Climate Change is placed on the Developing World.

“Emission control by developing countries is becoming a key for effective mitigation of climate change, as those countries now account for more than a half of global emissions and are still expanding their energy infrastructure.”

I beg to differ!
The Burden rests primarily on the Developed World.

The World in Year 2000 (According to Professor John Holdren, then Harvard, now Science Advisor to US President Obama)

  • World Population >6.0 billion
  • (i)   Rich (0.8 billion),
  • (ii)  Transitional (1.2 billion)
  • (iii) Poor (4.0 billion)
  • Criterion: GDP in US$ per capita (PPP) (i) >16,000, (ii) 4000-16,000, (iii) < 4,000 respectively.

The Rich have Nine times the Wealth, Eight times the Energy Consumption and Eight times Carbon Emission of the Poor. According to UNDP Human Development Report 1998;20% Richest : 86% of World Private Consumption20% Poorest : Miniscule 1.3% of World Private Consumption.

The Developed World cannot run away from the Truth that the Accumulation of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere has been due to their Economic Development through Industrialisation in the past Century. We would admit that the Developing World contributed to the process by their blood, sweat and tear; as well as depletion of their natural resources, including forests as Colonies of the Developed World. This includes China, India and Malaysia. It is Ironic that in emulating the Development Pathway of the Developed World successfully, high income developing countries like China and India are now the “villains” in this climate change debate!

The Developing World of Poverty at Dawn of 21st Century1.3 billion people live in abject poverty, subsisting on a daily income of less than US $1.00;3.0 billion people have a daily income of less than US$ 2.00; 800.0 million people suffer from food insecurity; 50.0 million people are HIV positive; 1.0 billion people suffer from water scarcity; and 2.0 billion people have no access to commercial energy.

World population will increase to 9.5 billion by 2050. Since the developed world’s population is declining, all the increase will be in developing countries and principally in their urban centres. This will immensely aggravate the global sustainability challenge. The most critical priority for our World: Global Poverty Elimination, especially through Job Creation and Wealth Creation for the teeming number of aspiring youth of the developing world. Otherwise, environmental degradation, social instability, terrorism, spread of diseases etc. confront the World.

Yet the World is not all Gloom and Doom There has been much betterment of the human condition in the second half of the 20th century, due largely to scientific, engineering and technological innovations in the developed world   According to Professor William Clark of Harvard:

  • Life expectancy at birth up: 50 -> 64 years
  • Infant mortality down: 13% -> 6%
  • Access to safe drinking water: <35% -> 65%
  • Literacy rate up: <50% -> 70%
  • GDP/cap (developing world only): US$900 -> $2900
  • >3 billion people improve living standards.

In our closely knit global economy, there is encouraging spread effects of beneficial development from the developed world to the developing world.

We must therefore get away from finger pointing and instead work together to confront the twin challenges of global poverty and climate change For the developing world, their priority remains economic development. They need urgently to lift themselves out of poverty. According to the UN Millennium Project Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Task Force Report “Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development” The two pre-requisites are:

  • a) Basic infrastructure i.e. roads, schools, water, sanitation, irrigation, clinics, telecommunications, energy etc.
  • b) Basic industries, namely small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for supply of goods and services to agricultural and mineral extraction industries as well as repair and maintenance of infrastructure.

Without the above pre-requisites, indigenous industries cannot upscale, economy cannot uplift and foreign direct investment (FDI) will not come. Hence UN Millennium Project urge the developed world to invest in developing countries with necessary resources to enable the developing world achieve the Millennium Developing Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Donor aid to date has been ineffectual, subject to costly delays due to imposed conditionalities like governance, labour standards, human rights and now green technologies. Of course procurement of goods and services must also be from donor country.

Advocacy of basic infrastructure as pre-requisite for achieving the MDGs in Developing Countries has been my main contribution to the UN Millennium Project in general and the STI Task Force in particular.This was quite a battle, as from the Nineties to the turn of this century, Infrastructure was a dirty word in World Bank, other development banks and the donor community. This was due to the decades of failed massive investments in mega projects that were inappropriate for the developing world and beggared further the already debt-ridden countries. You may remember the damning World Bank report “World Report on Large Dams” that set back electric power development from a renewable source throughout the world with the exception of China. There is now almost universal recognition that Infrastructure is essential for Economic Development. However, Inappropriate and Unaffordable Mega-Projects are again rearing their ugly head! Intense promotion by Donor Countries and Development Banks are in vogue in Africa.

  • Ethiopian Gilgel-Gibe I, II and Gibe III 2000 MW hydro power projects feeding the region through thousands of Km of 500 KV DC electric power transmission;
  • Pan East African electrified railway network;
  • Pan African Fibre-Optics Network;
  • Solar power installations covering the Sahara desert to supply Europe via submarine power cables.

The glamour and temptation of Mega-projects also remain irresistible to political masters in Developing Countries. As a result, inadequate attention and insufficient resources are being allocated to small but widespread Infrastructure projects in Rural and Remote Regions in Developing Countries. Without local physical and virtual connectivity, local economies are gridlocked. They cannot effectively participate in regional and national economic development through trade and commerce, let alone transnational or global economy. Developing Countries must make Appropriate, Accessible and Affordable Infrastructure their top Economic Development priority

Developing countries must refocus infrastructure services at the local level, using local human resources to build, operate and maintain simple installations with maximum utilisation of local materials. If such local infrastructures can be built all over the country, then the national government can in parallel build the next levels of infrastructure to interlink and interconnect these local installations.

Then and only then, the basis for integrating the national economy, trade and commerce will be available for competitive participation first in regional and global trade and global production chain.

Due to the unsuccessful donor driven development experience, I have found widespread despondency in Africa that the Economic Chasm between the Developed World and African countries is too wide. I have been trying to wean Africans away from quantum leaps in development projects that will plunge their countries deeper into poverty. I have urged Africa to look instead to Asia Pacific and South East Asia where macroeconomic stability, self-reliance, hard work, thrift and investment in education have transformed the economic landscape in the short span of three decades. I am an ardent advocate of “Look East and Look South” for Africa to cooperate with high and middle income developing countries Malaysia, China, India, Brazil, Singapore and others in the economic development of Africa through South-South Cooperation.

As an energy professional, I have been advocating that developing countries must focus on accessible and affordable energy, be it green, brown or black. Through my own network, I am assisting Kenya to examine seriously the procurement of second hand but appropriate and affordable coal-fired power plants from China. Such power plants are prematurely shut down due to China’s commitment on reduction of carbon emission. This initiative, if realised, will make energy accessible and affordable to fuel economic development in Kenya. Through my UNESCO International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation (ISTIC), I am trying to get Brazil to be the sugarcane ethanol hub and Indonesia to be the palm diesel hub for G77 countries.

I would repeat that ultimately and urgently, the solution to climate change must rest in the hands of the developed countries. The argument “More energy consumption is necessary to assure prosperity in developed countries” is not valid. There are developed countries in Europe with low annual electricity consumption per capita and high human development indices. Human development index is a measure of the well being of a nation, being derived from factors like life expectancy, level of education, GDP per capita and the like.

For this to happen, the developed world must lead the world to practise Sustainable Consumption. However, sustainable consumption has seldom been on the global development agenda. It is not favoured because it is perceived to threaten competitiveness and profitability. Whilst the unbridled consumption of the developed world is damaging in itself, lifestyles of affluent countries in Europe and North America have unfortunately become models for consumers in the more affluent developing countries.

If the global consumption of energy and materials were to become as intensive as that of the average American, worldwide usage would increase several fold and environmental damage would rise similarly. Quite apart from Climate Change consideration, this development path is unsustainable for our globe. To realise the culture of sustainable consumption, drastic changes in life-styles are necessary, especially in the developed world and in the higher income developing countries. There would need to be resolute political and societal will.

This will be very difficult in the prevailing climate of global advocacy of small government so as to let the market has a free rein. If private sector is left to maximise their bottom line, the world will suffer more “the tragedy of the common” like fishing the oceans to depletion and global warming by excessive carbon emission. I trust the current global financial tsunami, that is triggered by excessive greed will make the world to value the indispensable role of government in assuring the “Asian Values” of self-reliance, hard work, thrift and investment in education. Instead of striving to stay ahead in competitiveness, exhausting global resources in energy and materials, and endangering the very survival of our planet through global warming,

We must work urgently together to assure the quality of life rather than the quantity of living.

References:

  1. “Energy and Sustainable Development”, Professor John Holdren, Harvard, InterAcademy Panel Millennium Sustainability Transition Conference, May 2000, Tokyo.
  2. “Lighting The Way: Towards a Sustainable Energy Future” Lead Authors, Dr. Steven Chu and Professor Jose Goldemburg, InterAcademy Council, October 2007.
  3. “ Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development” Lead Authors Professor Calestous Juma and Ir. Lee Yee-Cheong, UN Millennium Project, January 2005.
  4. “Is Our Future Sustainable?” William C. Clark, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, International Conference on Science and Technology for Sustainability 2003, Tokyo, December 2003.
  5. “The Energy Problem and how we might solve it” Dr Steven Chu, Chinese Academy of Sciences Graduate School Sciences and Humanities Forum, Beijing, October, 2007

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