As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident and devastating, climate change mitigation is taking on particular urgency. But whereas the present environmental crisis originated primarily with the activities of wealthy industrialized nations, it may find its solution in emerging economies, which a recent report by Morgan Stanley describes as sites of clean energy innovation. Responding to growing energy demand and taking advantage of their relative freedom from legacy infrastructure, entrepreneurs and policymakers in these nations are aiming to meet real needs—and are creating technologies of interest all over the world.
This phenomenon is due in part to the different starting positions of the nations in question, as emerging markets countries tend to bring fresh perspectives to the issue. Rather than approach the problem from a defensive position, protecting the interests of long-entrenched industry entities, they look at how they can use their resources and the best and latest innovations to solve people’s problems without doing further damage to the environment. The examples are as plentiful as they are invigorating.
Upgraded Power Production in Bangladesh
Morgan Stanley reports that Bangladesh has harnessed a range of technologies in its modernization campaign. The country has been mechanizing its agricultural activities and installing vertical farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, the country is upgrading its power production with high-efficiency technologies. As Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts like flooding and drought, these initiatives have the potential to meet rising energy needs while protecting the environment, not to mention driving the economy and reducing poverty.
Vertical Farming in Brazil
In Brazil, innovation has included both vertical farming and clean transportation. City Farmer News has reported on the use of vertical farming in São Paulo to reduce emissions, absorb greenhouse gasses, and increase access to produce by urban residents. And the OECD has found that while Brazil’s biofuel production has faced challenges, it has a large enough base relative to other world economies that innovation and growth of this clean power is likely to continue.
Wind Power in China
In China, Bloomberg reports, impressive amounts of wind power have been used to generate electricity, reducing the country’s reliance on coal and improving its notoriously bad air quality. The country upped its wind power capacity by 23.3 gigawatts in 2016, bringing its total to twice that of the United States. The limiting factor is the size of China’s electric grid, which is expanding to meet the demand for clean energy. Even small changes here have huge implications, given China’s large population and economy.
Solar Energy in India
The Natural Resources Defense Council highlights India’s construction of the world’s largest solar energy plant. Large and small installations are helping bring electricity to areas that previously had none while serving the rapid growth of India’s cities. The need for renewable power will continue to meet India’s economic and population growth, and its strong engineering and technology sectors will continue to develop new ways to mitigate climate damage.
Much of the innovation developed in these economies can be exported to other nations facing a similar need for clean energy to assist in climate change mitigation, continuing the economic growth trajectory in these economies.
A key factor in all of these emerging nations is the relative lack of legacy systems. Climate change mitigation is easier to address when there is neither pre-existing infrastructure nor entrenched economic interests opposing new developments. This gives government and industry greater flexibility to approach the problem from new directions. It creates opportunities of interest for investors who want to support sustainable energy innovation and vulnerable populations, naturally, but it also creates avenues for growth within these countries’ local economies. The result is a rich trove of ideas for solving an industrial world problem with emerging markets solutions.