Why Global South climate entrepreneurship is most needed

 April 30, 2024

Why Global South climate entrepreneurship is most needed

Investing in low carbon infrastructure makes financial and environmental sense.

BY Lassor Feasley

The Global North is responsible for 92% of total carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution. By almost any accounting, the United States and Europe, a big part of the Global North (along with Australia) bear overwhelming responsibility for the climate crisis.

There is some reason for optimism. For 30 years, cumulative C02 emissions in the United States and Europe have plateaued. According to an original analysis by Renewables.org, the Global North has continued strong growth and development in that period without a corresponding increase in carbon emissions.

By contrast, nations in the Global South, which includes typically less developed countries, have nearly quadrupled their annual emissions. It recently surpassed the less populous Global North in total carbon emitted each year—the Global South now releases 63% of annual carbon emissions. Without intervention, innovation, and entrepreneurship, this trend may continue until the Global South is as polluting on a per capita basis as the Global North, which would be a catastrophic outcome.

Why Global South climate entrepreneurship is most needed

Is restorative justice needed?

Some Global South leaders, like India’s Narendra Modi, highlight the irony of Global North nations asking them to practice restraint, when they benefited from decades of unmitigated emissions. “Over the past century, a small section of humanity has indiscriminately exploited nature. However, entire humanity is paying the price for this, especially people living in the Global South,” he said.

Others, like Kenyan president William Ruto, argue that the Global North is obliged to extend a hand to the Global South to help finance and deploy technologies that would allow them to achieve a similar quality of life without the same carbon cost. “Making global finance responsive to Africa’s climate needs is one of the ways to ensure that Africa succeeds, bringing benefits to the whole world,” he wrote in a recent New York Times editorial.

The truth is, even if there were no restorative justice argument to be made, developed nations would still be obliged to provide support. This is because it is economically expedient to solve climate issues in the Global South, where building low carbon infrastructure is both cheaper and more effective due to the dirtier power grids often located there.

The returns are worth it

While investing in climate resilience and clean energy in the Global South is not always as lucrative, it can make many multiples of the return in terms of carbon avoidance per dollar as they would in the Global North. In addition, investment in Global South renewables creates auxiliary benefits like cleaner air and economic resilience.

From this perspective, building Global South renewables ought not be thought of as charity, but rather as the rational and highest return investment. If a mechanism were in place to draw capital where it had the greatest impact for the least amount of money, it would inevitably flow towards the Global South.

As scientists, financiers, and entrepreneurs develop and deploy clean technology, they should do so with the knowledge that their efforts will be magnified when deployed in the Global South. 

Why Global South climate entrepreneurship is most needed

Lassor Feasley is CEO of Renewables.org.


Fast Company