In 2010, Developing Nations to Lead in Wind
If you think sustainable business is a trend confined to industrialized countries, or that wind and solar power is too expensive to take off in the developing world, it’s time to think again. The sustainableinvestor network Ceres reported this week that for the first time ever, the developing world is on-track toinstall more wind energy capacity than industrialized countries thisyear. All told, developing countries will install more than 22,000megawatts of wind this year, laying the foundation for growinglow-carbon economies.
According to Ceres, some of the countries making the most significantinvestments in renewable energy include China, India, South Korea, andMexico. These countries haven’t drawn clean tech industries bycoincidence either: in each one, national or regional governmentinitiatives are in place to encourage the growth of sustainable business while simultaneously curbing or restricting carbon emissions. Suchpolicies have sent a clear message to clean tech companies andsustainable business leaders that they can invest in these nations withconfidence.
Ceres contrasts this commitment to sustainable business with the quitedifferent situation in the United States. Though the US nationalgovernment has made some investments in renewable energy in the lastcouple of years, there is no clear trend that would assure clean techinvestors they can count on sustained support. Political interest inclean energy tends to come in fits and starts in the United States, with no guarantee that incentives in place in any given year will be thesame next year. This fall, for example, sustainable business advocateshad to struggle just to get existing tax credits for renewable energyproject renewed for another year. Understandably this makes some cleantech companies wary of setting up shop in the United States.
As the developing world takes the lead on clean energy, many developingnations are also becoming leaders in reducing greenhouse emissions.According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the country that’s donemore than other to curb global warming is Brazil—partly due to effortsthat have curbed deforestation in the Amazon over the last few years. In countries like India andChina carbon emissions are still climbing at an alarming rate, becauseeven as they invest in clean energy they are also building new coalplants and adding cars to their roads. But both China and India aretaking encouraging steps meant to limit the growth of carbon emissions,and eventually help transition their economies to clean energy. Indiahas put a tax on coal and is implementing a suite of new environmental laws, while China is considering a cap on coal production and may be poised to pass a national cap-and-trade program.
So what should the United States do in the face of such competition from developing countries? If the US is going to recover from the recessionand create green jobs that can re-power the economy, the only choice isto make a renewed commitment to encouraging sustainable business. In2011 the United States should take steps that have helped othercountries and individual US state grow their clean energy economies,like passage of a climate bill and a national renewable energy standard. Then perhaps this country will see the same surge in renewable energyinvestments that is already re-powering the developing world.
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