2.1 million people are dying prematurely every year due to the effects of air pollution. The world’s twenty most polluted cities are all in developing countries (data from the World Economic Forum). Cleantech is central to the mitigation of air and water pollution and its associated environmental and health effects.
According to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, the availability of sustainable water and wastewater management (Development Goal No. 6), and secure access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy (Development Goal No. 7) are cornerstones of sustainable development, to which all people of the planet should have access. Scaling cleantech plays a crucial part in reaching the SDGs.
Clean Technologies (‘Cleantech’, or environmental technologies) help to meet these goals in a sophisticated and affordable manner. Cleantech is defined by three key factors – reducing air or water pollution, reducing wastage of resources, or support climate change adaptation.
The role of cleantech in each of these issues is especially important in emerging economies, which according to the United Nations are particularly affected by the effects of climate change.
Globally, energy intensity improved by 1.2% in 2018 (information from the International Energy Agency). This translates to an increased GDP of $1.6 trillion as compared to 2017. However, this figure could have been $4 trillion – an amount greater than the size of the German economy – had energy intensity improved at 3% every year since 2015. Controlling energy-related greenhouse gas emissions is more important in emerging economies where much of the future growth in global energy consumption is expected.
There is an ever-increasing need for investments in technologies that address climate change impacts such as water scarcity, sea-level rise, or increased severity and incidence of natural disasters. Many of these impacts will be strongest in emerging economies, which also have relatively fewer resources to finance adaptation.
In recent years, many environmental technologies have been invented for these purposes, but studies prove that we no longer need to invent new cleantech, but have to work on scaling existing technologies, that is, applying them on a large scale. The Princeton Carbon Mitigation Institute has shown extensively that the technologies needed to take the world off the path towards dramatic climate change already exist – they only need to be scaled.
Scaling cleantech to emerging markets and least developed countries (LDCs) is a promising solution to combat the effects of climate change.