The United States and other developed countries are launching an initiative to promote renewable energy generation and energy-efficiency measures in developing countries. The announcement came during a day when developing countries walked out of negotiations for a global treaty on climate change, contending that the rich countries aren't willing to do more to finance clean energy projects in poorer nations.
Energy Secretary Steve Chu announced on Monday the Renewables and Efficiency Developing Initiative, dubbed Climate REDI, in Copenhagen, where the United Nations is holding the second of a two-week meeting to draft a global pact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate REDI is made up of three programs: provide solar energy systems and LED lanterns to areas without electric grid; develop and promote energy-efficient appliances; and create an online tool for sharing technical and other resources among members of the Major Economies Forum, which formed in March this year to bring together rich and developing countries that are major economic powers (and polluters) in the world.
Climate REDI also would come up with funding to support World Bank's Strategic Climate Fund, which aims to help poor countries to develop and finance renewable energy policies.
The initiative would cost about $350 million over five years. The three programs would cost $100 million alone, and the United States plan to contribute $35 million. The rest would come from countries such as Australia and Italy.
For the World Bank's program, the initiative could give $250 million overtime, with $50 million coming form the Unite States, Chu said. The rest would come from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
How much the rich countries are willing to pony up to help the poorer ones has been a contentious issue during the Copenhagen climate talks. On Monday, about 130 developing countries walked out of the negotiations to protest proposed rules in the new climate change pact because those rules could cost developing nations a lot of money.
The proposed rules would be a departure from the existing climate change treaty, which is set to end in 2012. The existing treaty imposes emission-reduction goals on developed countries, which can cut their emissions by investing in renewable energy projects in developing nations.
The developing countries want to preserve this key framework in the new treaty. But some rich countries are lobbying for imposing emission-reduction goals on developing countries.
Meanwhile, solar industry trade groups from different countries banded together to issue a report on Monday highlighting the benefits of harnessing power from the sun.
The report touted the global solar industry's potential to create lots of jobs and help to cut emissions. Europe's industry group said electricity from solar panels could feasibly make up 20 percent of the supply for the European Union by 2020.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) envisions seeing 12 percent of the electricity coming from solar panels and solar thermal power projects while another 3 percent from solar hot water heaters by 2020, said SEIA's CEO, Rhone Resch, from a press conference in Copenhagen.
Speaking at a press conference from Copenhagen, Resch said achieving those goals in Europe and the U.S. would lead to a combined reduction of nearly one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and create 6.3 million jobs. About 880,000 of those jobs would be located in the United States, the report said.
The SEIA and other solar industry trade groups are lobbying for more government spending to help manufacturers build factories and provide incentives to project developers and consumers to install solar energy systems. They are characterizing these investments as benefiting not only home countries but also poor nations in which many residents still don't have regular to electricity – or none at all.
Given that the United States export most of its solar technologies, promoting solar in developing nations would ultimately benefit U.S. companies, Resch said.
"Overall, the tone here in Copenhagen is cautious optimism. We will see more announcements about investments in developing countries," Resch said. "There is a need to create carbon-free energy sources as these countries" create an electricity infrastructure