Some politicians characterize policies to address climate change as a choice between economic growth and the environment. What’s more, say Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, even if we were to take action on climate change, anything we do will make no difference because countries like China are “drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of.”
Problem is, that just isn’t true.
Huge growth in clean energy in developing nations
According to new data published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a majority of the investment in clean energy in the world in 2014 took place in 55 developing nations, including China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and other nations.
Key findings of the study:
- For the first time ever, over half of all new annual investment into clean energy power generating projects globally went toward projects in emerging markets, rather than toward wealthier countries. China led this growth by adding 35 gigawatts of new renewable power generating capacity — more than the US, UK and France combined.
- New investment in renewables soared in 2014 in the 55 developing countries to hit a record annual high of $126 billion – up 39%, from 2013 levels.
- Financial institutions in developing countries invested $79 billion in renewables in those countries, up 50% from the year before.
- Continuing declines in clean energy costs appear to be driving growth. Costs associated with solar have declined 15% globally in the last year. Solar is particularly competitive in emerging markets which often suffer from very high power prices from fossil generation while also enjoying very sunny conditions.
- On a percentage basis, clean energy capacity in developing countries is growing twice as quickly as in developed nations.
What’s more, The BNEF analysis says this trend is not only going to continue, but increase over the next 25 years. (OECD countries are the 34 most developed nations in the world.)
As you can see from the chart above, use of oil, gas and coal in developing countries will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. China has announced that their emissions will peak in 2030. But during that time, the renewables capacity in developing nations will become 60% of their total energy output, up from the 33% it is today.
Time for the US — and Montana — to step up
In advance of the critical international climate talks scheduled to begin shortly in Paris, it is clear that the developing countries of the world are prepared to step to the table to make significant commitments to reducing carbon emissions. Rather than stick our heads in the sand, as candidates as Rubio and Fiorina and others would have us do, it is time for the United States to step up.
And in Montana, where our leaders blithely talk about an “all of the above” energy policy, it’s time to wake up. The future is going to be built around transitioning to clean energy, not extracting fossil fuels from the shale underneath the Beartooth Front.
They understand this in Pakistan, Tanzania and Mexico. Why not in Helena and Washington DC?