At the Climate Summit in Marrakech, representatives from 47 of the world’s most disadvantaged nations have pledged to generate 100% of their electricity needs from renewable sources, essentially by-passing the dirty fossil fuel industry.

Africa is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Image credits: Oxfam.

In a sustained effort to show their commitment to a carbon-neutral future, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and tens of other climate-vulnerable countries have pledged to develop their infrastructure in a way that accommodates 100% renewable energy. Termed the Marrakech Vision, the plan promises that the 47 members will: “strive to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances”.

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However, they also urge other countries to follow in their footsteps because otherwise, it’s all in vain – by themselves, they can’t make enough of a difference.

“We are pioneering the transformation towards 100% renewable energy, but we want other countries to follow in our footsteps in order to evade catastrophic impacts we are experiencing through hurricanes, flooding and droughts,” said Mr Mattlan Zackhras, a minister from the Marshall Islands which are also a part of the pledge.

“We don’t know what countries are still waiting for to move towards net carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy,” said Edgar Gutierrez, Costa Rica’s minister for the environment.
“All parties should start the transition, otherwise we will all suffer.”

These countries want to basically leapfrog the whole fossil-based energy industry. In many ways, it’s easier to build a sustainable infrastructure from scratch than to switch an existing one, and developing countries are working to take advantage of this. In other words, skipping inferior, less efficient, more expensive or more polluting technologies and industries and moving directly to more advanced ones. It’s quite similar to what happened with phone landlines – many developing areas skipped landlines completely and moved directly to mobile cell phones.

It’s an ironic situation when least developed countries are more committed to reducing emissions than some of the developed countries – which became developed by burning fuels, so should carry more responsibility. But developed countries are (or at the very least, should) play a part in the success of developing countries. According to the Paris Climate Agreement, developed countries will mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020, but much of that is yet to be achieved. For instance, the US has promised $3bn at present for the initial capitalization of the green climate fund, but only $0.5bn has ever been sent, and president elect said he will completely stop all such funding.

“$2.5bn dollars was supposed to be in the mail, but now that the mailman has changed that might be a bit of an issue,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, from the DRC, who is also the chair of the group of Least Developed Countries in these talks. If the US pulls out and the others cut, it creates uncertainty and that can hinder ambition.”

The interaction between developed and developing nations in tackling climate change is still volatile, but the core thing is that we’re all in this together. No matter who you are and where you are in the world, climate change affects us all and so we must tackle this together, internationally.