Generate energy in greener ways, World Bank urges India

Generate energy in greener ways, World Bank urges India

In its World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, released worldwide Tuesday, the Bank noted that 1.6 billion people in the developing world lack access to electricity. In India alone, more than 400 million people do not have electricity.

"Those developing countries -- whose average per capita emissions (of greenhouse gases that are leading to global warming) are a fraction of those of high-income countries -- need massive expansions in energy, transport, urban systems, and agricultural production."

But, the report warns, increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change. 

"India faces tremendous challenges in substantially altering its emissions path given its relatively efficient economy and limited endowment of clean energy resources and for carbon storage sites," the report says.

"India relies heavily on coal, which accounts for 53 percent of its commercial energy supply. Large potential exists, however, for improving energy efficiency and reducing transmission and distribution losses." 

The report finds that existing low-carbon technologies and best practices could reduce energy consumption significantly, saving money as well. For example, it is possible to cut energy consumption in industry and the power sector by 20-30 percent, helping reduce carbon footprints without sacrificing growth.

In addition, many changes required to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases also deliver significant benefits in environmental sustainability, public health, energy security, and financial savings. Avoided deforestation, for instance, preserves watersheds and protects biodiversity, while forests can effectively serve as a carbon sink. 

With costs of renewable energy declining over the past two decades, wind, geothermal, and hydropower are already or nearly cost-competitive with fossil fuels, the report says.
Thanks to innovation and technology diffusion, wind is now powering the first stages of what could become an energy revolution. And although most installed wind capacity is in Europe and the US, the pattern is shifting, says the report.

In 2008, India and China each installed more wind capacity than any other country except the US and together they host nearly 20 percent of the world's capacity.

Solving the climate problem requires a transformation of the world's energy systems in the coming decades, according to the report. Research and development investments on the order of $100-700 billion annually will be needed -- a major increase from the modest $13 billion a year of public funds and $40-60 billion a year of private funds currently invested. 

Developing countries, particularly the poorest and most exposed, will need assistance in adapting to the changing climate, says the report.

"Climate finance must be greatly expanded, since current funding levels fall far short of foreseeable needs.

"Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), managed by the World Bank and implemented jointly with regional developing banks, offer one opportunity for leveraging support from advanced countries, since these funds can buy-down the costs of low-carbon technologies in developing countries."

"Developing countries face 75-80 percent of the potential damage from climate change. They urgently need help to prepare for drought, floods, and rising sea levels. They also need to intensify agricultural productivity, contain malnutrition and disease, and build climate-resilient infrastructure," said World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President Development Economics Justin Lin.

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