‘Rich’ will not lead in clean energy

Chandran Nair
The Financial Times

Sir, José Antonio Ocampo and Nicholas Stern’s article “Rich nations must take the lead in a clean-energy revolution” (June 19) is sadly misleading. The rich countries they refer to are no longer rich, but are, in fact, debt-ridden because they have lived beyond their means, with cheap energy assisting this process. They are caught in a massive readjustment, which will extend for a few decades and goes well beyond the academic discussions about stimulus versus austerity measures.

These countries are adjusting to a new reality – being forced to become more energy-efficient and less resource-intensive. Yet either they are unaware of this, as the political discussions seem ignorant of the underlying causes, or they are in denial. The readjustment will be painful because it is the unravelling of two to three centuries of an economic model that allowed a minority to build rich nations through exploitative and extractive growth via the underpricing of resources.

The “poor” majority, especially in Asia with its huge population, should be very clear about what is happening and not seek to emulate the west in this regard. They will need to embrace all forms of austerity (with less resource- and energy-intensive economies) to make it through the 21st century, and this will need to be driven by self-interest.

Just China, India and Indonesia taking steps to improve energy-efficiency with existing technology and enforcing regulations on forest protection and water usage will do more to address global climate change than any so-called clean-energy revolution from the rich countries. There is a reason the rich nations have not led the clean-energy revolution or honoured commitments: they are no longer rich.