Douglas Alexander: We need to creat a global low-carbon economy

A A A

Each of us has a shared interest in tackling dangerous climate change. Yet it is the world’s poorest people who find themselves most vulnerable to the impact of a warming planet.

For many people in developing countries, climate change is not just a future threat, but a present reality. And while we cannot ascribe individual events to climate change, forecasts suggest that the impact of natural disasters, droughts and floods will increasingly threaten lives and livelihoods.



As International Development Secretary I have met people who have shown me the connection between poverty and climate change in the clearest personal terms.



In Bangladesh I met children made orphans by Cyclone Sidr. In Kenya, I visited a camp of 350 families forced from their homes by flash floods. In Ethopia, I met women who had been forced by drought to walk further each day to collect water, until they were walking for five hours simply to drink from a watering hole shared by people and animals alike.



Unless we tackle climate change, generations of people could be condemned to poverty. Beyond preventing further climate change by cutting emissions, we need to help developing countries to adapt to the changes that are now inevitable.



That is why the Department for International Development is helping people in Zambia to protect their crops against the damage caused by flooding. In Lesotho, where a severe crop failure two years ago left a quarter of the population in need of food aid, we are helping people to grow their own small gardens so they have another source of food to fall back on in hard times. In Bangladesh we are helping people to raise their homes on plinths – to protect what little they have from being washed away with the rains each year.



Yet while climate change poses a clear risk to the world, it also offers an opportunity for economic growth – at a time when it is much needed. The United Nations estimates that investment in zero-carbon energy will reach $1.9 trillion by 2020.



The opportunities for low-carbon growth exist here in the UK and abroad. India is now home to the world’s fifth largest wind turbine manufacturer, and China invested over $12bn in renewables during 2007. Other emerging economies could do the same, and green growth could provide a better future for those ‘bottom billion’ who have so often in the past been left behind.



The UK’s Department for International Development is already supporting renewable energy projects in twelve developing countries, such as in Zambia, where we are helping local schools, clinics and households to install solar panels that will provide a sustainable source of cheap energy.



We are also supporting the Lighting Africa initiative which aims to provide up to 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with low cost, safe and reliable lighting by 2030.



Last month Gordon Brown announced a £25m funding package to provide renewable energy in some of the world’s poorest countries. By producing renewable energy on a bigger scale, this investment will bring a triple benefit: reducing those countries’ exposure to volatile oil prices; helping businesses to grow; and reducing fossil fuel emissions.



Four years ago, millions of people in Britain campaigned to make poverty history. If the world ducks the challenge of climate change, it could make poverty the future. But if we tackle climate change with ambition, we can use the creation of a global low-carbon economy as a path to creating a better life for millions of our neighbours around the world.



Douglas Alexander MP is Secretary of State for International Development

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea