It is possible to increase access to the essentials for a ‘decent life’ without sharp rises in emissions, says a new study. Dr Narasimha Rao, assistant professor of energy systems at Yale University in the US, said access to energy is vital for a decent standard of living and ending poverty. His study which centered on India, Brazil and South Africa found that ‘it is possible to increase access to the basics within the current national levels of energy use’. The research showed that providing the basics to escape poverty is not where the main growth in energy demand comes.
Dr Rao said a growing demand for better homes, transport and electricity does not necessarily mean runaway greenhouse gas emissions and worsening climate change. “Energy can be provided in a way that is sustainable for people surviving on low incomes and for the planet.”
The assistant professor’s checklist for a decent standard of living includes nutritious meals, access to water and sanitation, safe and uncrowded home, clean stoves, primary education, basic household appliances, healthcare and public transit.
Dr Rao’s research team worked on the DecentLivingEnergy project. They identified ways for developing countries to provide energy needed to eradicate poverty without accelerating climate change. “A crucial step was to quantify how much energy is needed to provide decent living standards and to access their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions,” he explained. “The government has an obligation to pursue public transport which is good for the society, health and the climate.” Dr Rao says using public transport than private cars to meet the future mobility needs in Indian cities could reduce energy demand by up to 25%. He added that it will significantly reduce air pollution and emissions.
In regards to nutrition, Dr Rao explained that there are choices of grains and other foods, that are less resource-intensive and healthier, in vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. He said adequate nutrition has to be encouraged. “A third priority to limit greenhouse has emissions while improving lives is to design energy-efficient buildings and to use more sustainable materials and construction methods. They save money, they save energy and provide adequate services to the people.”
According to Dr Rao, the biggest energy hogs are mobility and buildings. “That’s where there’s a whole lot of affluence as well, in terms of the cars per person, and the big houses that eat up a lot of energy used in an economy.”