Friday, 13 November 2009

The real agenda for Copenhagen is tackling poverty

Harish Hande, CEO, Selco Solar Light, Bangalore, India.

Poverty is the greatest threat to our environment. The poor use some of the most inefficient technologies and polluting fuels - not because they are cheap but because they don’t have a choice.

Today’s debate on the climate change treaty is seen as between the developed world and the developing world. It has led the rich in developing countries to hide behind the poor and the poor in developing countries to be short changed. The reality is we all have a vested interested in getting this treaty right – rich and poor.

We have before us a wonderful and unique opportunity – to implement climate change solutions that will also reduce poverty, like affordable solar energy systems. My social enterprise, Selco India has provided 112,000 solar home systems to low income households and institutions. We ensure that the systems are affordable by partnering with microfinance organisations that provide small loans. We have also set up a pilot fund to guarantee the deposits on solar systems for very poor families. Nothing can compare with the thrill of someone switching on a light for the first time and knowing how this can change their life!

Much, much more of this can be done and we are showing just what's possible. If we partner with the poor to create options for them to produce their energy sustainably – be it through renewable energies or clean stoves or biogas – we will get a double whammy: a curb on climate change but also a route for them out of the relentless poverty trap.

We must put poverty at the centre stage of Copenhagen and not focus on the false confrontation between developing versus developed world. When the discussion finally turns towards providing sustainable energy solutions for the poor a new dawn of social justice and economic progress will begin.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

Selco Solar Light designs and sells solar home systems, primarily to meet the needs of the poor. The company was winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy in 2007 and a 2005 winner.

View the Ashden Awards video of SELCO:

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