In Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, in November 2022, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held its 27th Conference of the Parties, bringing together delegates from an estimated 190 countries and 92 heads of state to agree on policies to limit global rises in temperature and adapt to the impacts of climate change that have already occurred.
The event made some progress in dealing with global warming, establishing a loss and damage fund for the countries most affected and at risk from climate change. Unfortunately, the countries in attendance were not able to come to an agreement regarding limiting fossil fuel use. In a world where the scientific consensus is increasingly anxious about global warming reaching the point of no return, every locality, from the richest and most developed to the poorest and still developing, is being encouraged to end its use of fossil fuels.
However, countries that have been developed for decades, if not centuries, have some clear advantages when it comes to their ability to reduce emissions. In this blog post, we will cover what advantages developed countries have, how developing countries can still contribute to lowering GHG emissions, and everything else you need to know about this issue.
Who is most responsible for global emissions?
Who is to blame for climate change is central to current arguments concerning climate loss and damage? While there is no simple solution to this problem, certain information regarding recent and historic emissions may help.
In 2021, the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels exceeded 36 billion metric tons, setting a record for greenhouse gas emissions. The United States is the second largest emitter, behind China. Next come the combined emissions from the European Union, India, and Russia.
However, emission data does not provide a complete picture of accountability for climate change. Countries are massively unequal regarding how much they’ve caused climate change.
The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes observable climate change. The main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, carbon dioxide, has remained in the atmosphere for centuries.
As a result, experts consider a nation’s cumulative emissions from its many sources throughout time. Over twenty percent of all emissions in the past can be traced back to the United States, making it the greatest historical emitter. When global warming pollution is calculated this way, China drops to third place, contributing as much as half as much as the United States.
Who has advantages when it comes to reducing emissions?
Cleaner energy sources and more efficient processes are more likely to be adopted in developed nations due to their greater resources, more sophisticated technology, and more developed infrastructure. These advantages include:
Renewable energy generation
Natural resources that are regenerated at a faster pace than they are used are considered renewable energy sources. Such replenishing sources include, for example, sunlight and wind. Renewable energy sources abound and can be found just about everywhere. Coal, oil, and gas are examples of fossil fuels distinct from renewable resources since their formation requires hundreds of millions of years. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity. Renewable energy generation results in far less emissions than fossil fuel generation. To combat global warming, we must shift away from fossil fuels, the primary source of emissions today, and towards renewable energy sources.
In most regions, renewable energy sources have dropped in price and currently provide three times as much employment as traditional energy sources.
Solar energy is the most plentiful and may be used in overcast conditions. Earth intercepts 10,000 times more solar energy than humans utilize. Solar technologies provide heat, cooling, lighting, power, and fuels for many uses. Photovoltaic panels, or solar mirrors transform sunlight into electricity. Direct solar energy can contribute to any country’s energy mix, even if it’s not as abundant. Solar panels are now accessible and typically the cheapest type of power due to a decade-long drop in manufacturing costs. Solar panels last 30 years and vary in colour based on their substance.
Enormous wind turbines generate wind energy on land, in the sea, or in freshwater. With higher turbines and greater rotor diameters, onshore and offshore wind energy technologies have improved to enhance power production.
Though average wind speeds vary, the world’s technological potential for wind energy surpasses worldwide power output, and most locations can deploy considerable wind energy.
Wind power is best generated in distant areas; however, many places have strong winds. Offshore wind power is promising.
Hydropower uses water flowing downhill. Reservoirs and rivers create them. Run-of-river hydropower facilities use river flow, whereas reservoir hydropower plants use stored water
Hydropower reservoirs provide drinking water, irrigation, flood and drought management, navigation, and electricity.
Hydropower is the greatest renewable electricity source. It is vulnerable to climate-induced droughts and ecological changes that affect rainfall patterns.
Hydropower infrastructure harms ecosystems. Small-scale hydropower is ecologically benign and ideal for isolated populations.
Geothermal energy taps the Earth’s heat energy. Wells draw heat from geothermal reservoirs.
Hydrothermal reservoirs are inherently hot and permeable, whereas enhanced geothermal systems are heated by hydraulic stimulation.
Different-temperature fluids may create electricity at the surface. Hydrothermal reservoir energy production has been dependable for over 100 years.
Technologies that harness the heat and motion of the ocean (from waves or currents, for example) are the source of ocean energy.
Various prototype wave and tidal current devices are now being examined as part of the early development of ocean energy systems. Theoretically, ocean energy has the potential to provide much more power than is now needed by humans.
Bioenergy comes from biomass, such as wood, charcoal, dung, and other manures, for heat and electricity, and agricultural crops for liquid biofuels. Rural poor people in developing nations utilise most biomass for cooking, lighting, and space heating.
Modern biomass systems use crops, trees, and organic waste.
Biomass energy emits less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Given the environmental risks of large-scale forest and bioenergy plantings, deforestation, and land-use change, bioenergy should be utilised sparingly.
Energy-efficient transportation systems
Another advantage more developed countries have over countries that are still developing is more energy-efficient transportation systems, which are modes of getting around designed to reduce energy consumption and emissions. One example is the ubiquitous electric scooters you can rent in major U.S. cities.
Public transit projects reduce the need for as many people to drive to and from work. For example, Amtrak in the U.S. operates passenger trains in three systems across the country, connecting large metropolitan areas on the East Coast through the Northeast Corridor line.
The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a proposed system of transportation hubs throughout the European Union, including roadways, railroads, airports, and ports. Long-distance, high-speed TEN-T routes will be coordinated enhancements to key roadways, railroads, inland waterways, airports, seaports, inland ports, and traffic management systems.
Japan has one of the most celebrated public transit networks, with high-speed trains connecting large metropolitan areas. Japan pioneered the high-speed shinkansen or “bullet train,” which links Japan’s largest cities at speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph).
Connected and automated vehicles
Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CAVs are a form of vehicle technology that utilises wireless communication, sensors, and software to improve roadway safety, efficiency, and mobility. Using technology such as sensors, cameras, and GPS, automated vehicles are cars and trucks that can travel without a human operator. CAV can potentially optimise driving patterns to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This may accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles as opposed to gasoline or diesel vehicles.
Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
Adding bike lanes to city streets and walkable paths allows citizens to choose modes of transportation that don’t contribute to GHG emissions.
Traditional, car-centric transport design has increased greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, road deaths, and traffic congestion. Sustainable mobility is essential to addressing climate change and road safety.
Active mobility—walking and cycling, the lowest-carbon means of transport—is one of the most important adjustments communities can undertake to accomplish ecological, economic, and social objectives. Investing in active mobility infrastructure and initiatives prioritises pedestrians and bicycles above motor vehicles and ensures road user safety. Walking and cycling are underfunded, while car-centred planning and design dominate.
Low- and zero-emission vehicles
Electric cars minimise pollution, fuel prices, and fuel efficiency. Hybrid and electric cars boost the economy and diversify the transportation fleet. Electricity from several fuel sources makes electrified mobility more reliable. This improves energy security.
Regenerative braking helps hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) consume less fuel than comparable conventional cars. Plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (BEVs) may run on electricity generated from natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, wind energy, hydropower, and solar energy.
Advanced manufacturing techniques
Countries further along in their development have access to advanced manufacturing techniques that minimise emissions. In contrast, developing countries can’t be expected to jump to lower-emission manufacturing when the cost is a barrier. Development from a very low base requires short-term emission increases by developing countries. If top emitters cut emissions quickly, this should meet global emissions objectives. Unfortunately, the zero goal has been understood as a ban on public backing for new fossil fuel generation, which is unfair.
Advanced technology boosts productivity and lowers energy costs in smart manufacturing. Cummins, an Indiana-based engine manufacturer, has invested in its equipment to transform energy from its engine testing facilities into electricity for its buildings, reducing its energy consumption by 20% since 2010.
Large organisations may employ smart manufacturing technologies and methods like these. This law helps small and medium-sized manufacturers do the same.
Industrial carbon capture and storage
Up to 90–99 percent of CO2 emissions, including those from energy use and manufacturing processes, might be eliminated at an industrial site if carbon capture and storage (CCS) were implemented.
Cement, iron and steel, and chemical production together are responsible for almost 20% of worldwide CO2 emissions, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency. Because a large fraction of industrial emissions arise from the process itself as opposed to energy usage, reducing emissions from these businesses is notoriously challenging.
The decomposition of limestone into lime and CO2 accounts for around half of the emissions in the cement industry. CO2 emissions in the power industry may be reduced by switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, but there are currently no viable alternatives to emissions-heavy manufacturing techniques.
Carbon-neutral manufacturing processes
Energy efficiency upgrades must play a pivotal role in getting the globe onto a road with zero net emissions. In particular, we need to pay close attention to heating and cooling systems since they use up to half of a processing plant’s total energy supply.
Modern heat pump technology allows factories to collect their excess heat from refrigeration and raise the temperature to generate heat that can be used for other manufacturing processes. Our research shows that highly efficient heat pumps may cut CO2 emissions and energy consumption by as much as half in manufacturing facilities. And when renewable energy is used for power, there are no emissions.
The challenges developing countries face
We’ve covered the advantages more developed and wealthy countries have in the preceding paragraphs. Now let’s look at developing countries’ challenges in reducing GHG emissions.
Recent research shows that fewer poor nations than expected will be able to buy more effective technology in the next few decades to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The study, conducted by scientists at National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Colorado, highlights the difficulties low-income countries face as they try to adapt to the effects of global warming and issues a warning that it will be more difficult than expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lack of funding
The International Monetary Fund and others have found that public adaptation expenditures will amount to around 0.25 percent of world GDP annually in the next few decades. While these figures may seem reasonable from a global perspective, they greatly understate the magnitude of the problem in many developing nations. For the next decade, the International Monetary Fund predicts yearly requirements will surpass 1 percent of GDP in around 50 low- and emerging-income nations. The expenses may be significantly higher for tiny island countries vulnerable to tropical storms and rising seas, reaching up to 20% of GDP.
Rapid and unregulated expansion
Both India and China are experiencing fast economic development, and much of this development generates harmful air pollution. Millions of fatalities, millions of hospitalisations, and lost workdays are attributed to the high levels of air pollution in these nations each year. Compared to their counterparts in industrialised countries, people in these nations have a far higher risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, asthma, and stroke.
Dependence on fossil fuels
Although climate change is a worldwide issue, the poor and developing nations bear its consequences. These communities are particularly at risk because of their reliance on scarce natural resources and their inability to adapt to climate change. Poverty will worsen as a result of climate change. Because of their geographical and climatic characteristics, heavy reliance on natural resources, and limited potential to adapt to a changing climate, emerging countries will be hit the hardest by its negative effects. The poorest within these nations are the most at risk since they have fewer resources and lower adaptability. Their livelihoods are particularly at risk from the projected changes in the incidence, frequency, intensity, and duration of climate extremes (such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, and drought), as well as from more gradual changes in the average climate, which will further exacerbate inequalities between the developing and developed worlds. Therefore, climate change is a major obstacle to ending world poverty. The concerns associated with climate change are often overlooked in existing development initiatives.
What is to be done?
The urgency to reverse the damage done to our planet is only rising with the temperatures of the oceans, but the majority of the work may need to be taken on by the most developed countries, at least at first. More developed countries have access to renewable energy generation, energy-efficient transportation systems, and advanced manufacturing techniques, allowing them to move forward more quickly in their carbon neutrality efforts. In contrast, developing countries, dependent on fossil fuels, are held back because they lack funding and access to resources. Therefore, the most developed countries in the world have a responsibility to step up and lead the way in developing and implementing techniques to reduce our carbon emissions and eventually reverse the effects of climate change.