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June 04, 2024

Can the global south develop without fossil fuel?

S1 E24 41 MINS

Climate anxieties—and global temperatures—are on the rise. According to the United Nations, if the planet warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius, we’ll be facing irreversible climate damage. To stop that increase, we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Reaching such an ambitious goal means changing a lot of our behaviors, including cutting back on our use of fossil fuels. But should everyone, and every nation, be held to the same standard? Is it realistic to ask countries in the global south to shoulder equal responsibility for cutting carbon emissions?

Dr. Rahul Tongia, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) in New Delhi and non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, concedes that while we must be more innovative and aggressive when it comes to the development of green technology, it’s unrealistic to cut out fossil fuels entirely. He adds that we need to decouple the idea of “access” from “clean,” and make sure there is electrical wiring in every home across the globe before we focus on going green.

Zaki Mamdoo, South African environmental activist and coordinator of the StopEACOP (Stop East African Crude Oil Pipeline) campaign, says that it is entirely unnecessary to harm the environment in order to increase energy access. He says fossil fuels are actually anti-development, in that they not only pollute the air, land, water and livestock, but they destroy local economies, desecrate cultural sites and ruin labor systems and communities. He argues that all nations must refrain from new fossil-fuel use, leapfrog towards more renewable energy resources like wind and solar and embrace a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

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