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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

The breathtaking hypocrisy of rich countries telling developing world to switch to renewables

The rich world's fossil fuel hypocrisy is on full display in its response to the global energy crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While the wealthy G7 countries admonish the world's poor to use only renewable energy (RE) because of climate concerns, Europe and the US are going begging to Arab nations to expand oil production. Germany is reopening coal power plants, while Spain and Italy are ramping up African gas production. So many European countries have asked Botswana to mine more coal that the country will have to triple its exports.

A single person in the rich world uses more fossil fuel energy than all the energy available to 23 poor Africans. The rich world became wealthy by massively exploiting fossil fuels, which today provide more than three-quarters of its energy. Solar and wind deliver less than 3% of the rich world's energy. Yet, the rich are choking off funding for any new fossil fuels in the developing world. Most of the world's poorest 4 billion people have no meaningful energy access. So, the rich blithely tell them to 'leapfrog' from no energy to a green nirvana of solar panels and wind turbines.

This promised nirvana is a sham consisting of wishful thinking and green marketing. The world's rich would never accept off-grid, RE themselves - and nor should the world's poor. Consider the experience of Dharnai, a village in Bihar that Greenpeace tried to turn into India's first solar-powered community in August 2014. Greenpeace received glowing, global media attention when it declared that Dharnai would refuse 'to give into the trap of the fossil fuel industry'.

But the day the solar electricity was turned on, the batteries were drained within hours. A boy remembers wanting to do his homework, but there wasn't enough power for his family's one lamp. Villagers were prohibited from using fridges or TV sets because they would exhaust the system. They couldn't use electric cooking stoves, so had to continue burning wood and dung, which create terrible air pollution. Across the developing world, millions die from indoor pollution that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is equivalent to each person smoking two packs of cigarettes every day.

Put It on (Real) Back Burner

Greenpeace invited Nitish Kumar to admire their handiwork. He was met by a crowd waving signs demanding 'real electricity' - the kind you can use to run a refrigerator or a stove, and that your children can use to do their homework - and not 'fake electricity', meaning solar energy that could do none of these things.

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