There is a growing need to develop new climate change solutions with countries of the Global South at its forefront. Mounting pressure has been placed on these countries as the combination of generally vulnerable geography and inadequate infrastructure to combat the effects of climate change make countries of the Global South the most susceptible targets. This could lead to a variety of consequences including a mass migration of refugees from affected areas, with the World Bank estimating the number to exceed 140 million by 2050. Moreover, as larger countries with a greater share of historical emissions have notably eschewed taking action, nations of the Global South will likely need to develop their own strategies to counter the expected damage that stems from global climate change.
Many Global South countries have recognized this and have developed unique strategies to counter the damaging effects of climate change. As new countries search for policy options to mitigate the effects of climate change at the local level, this article examines duplicable policy decisions. Three countries in particular have implemented strategies that have shown promise: Colombia, Ethiopia, and Morocco. Each of these strategies focus on incentivizing local climate change action through strategic objectives including local economic development, increased community-based involvement, and critical top-down changes. From carbon taxes to renewable energy subsidies, there are plenty of policy options for other countries of the Global South to consider adapting based on the following.
Colombia: Carbon Taxes with Private Sector Incentives
In 2016, Colombia began implementing carbon taxes at $5 USD per ton based on the premise that climate change would lead to GDP losses in valuable industries including agriculture and fishing. There are two notable benefits to this policy action: engaging the private sector to positively encourage a shift to cleaner energy sources and using a substantial portion of the tax revenue to fund environmental protection activities and sustainable rural development.
First, these carbon taxes are now incentivizing private companies to engage in carbon offsetting in order to receive generous tax breaks. As a result of this endeavor, many Colombian firms have successfully moved towards renewable energy. Second, significant tax revenues that are collected from firms that have not completely offset their emissions. This money has been utilized in such programs as the national Herencia Colombia (Heritage Colombia) program that aims to protect and conserve 20 million hectares of Colombia’s natural areas.
Colombia thus offers a useful model with the capacity to be replicated in countries with similar economies. However, one significant challenge remains locally in the exemption of coal as a taxable fossil fuel that could lead to perverse incentives by emissions-generating firms (IETA). In attempting to replicate the results of Colombia’s carbon taxes, countries should consider implementing them in the same manner albeit with stringent regulation on all types of emissions-generating firms.
Ethiopia: Focus on Forestry
Ethiopia is considered one of the few countries that will likely meet its Paris Agreement target with the bulk of the country’s mitigation efforts focused on one sector — forestry. The ‘Green Legacy’ advocated by current Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has focused on the planting of more trees to regain forest loss caused after the widespread deforestation that has occurred in recent years. This ‘Green Legacy’ has garnered international attention through such enormous feats as the planting of over 200 million trees throughout the country in a mere 12 hours this past July.
In addition to this nationwide plan, Ethiopian scientists are advocating for widespread planting of a specific kind of tree known as the white acacia or faidherbia albida. In Ethiopia, the growth of this distinctive native tree is believed to be an affordable and effective tool for combating climate change in two ways. First, its unique ability to enrich soil and produce greater crop yields can reduce emissions that stem from manufactured nitrogen fertilizer. Secondly, it can serve as a buffer against extreme temperatures which indicates great potential for application in climate resilient farming systems.
Ethiopia’s unique approach of focusing on forestry is similarly replicable in a variety of contexts. This is especially true given that the white acacia grows throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and across many climatic zones. It has the potential to extend to other parts of the world with similar climates. In order to utilize this approach in other countries, it must be noted that the results have not yet been fully realized. Although what Ethiopia is accomplishing is remarkable thus far, the policies and research related to forestry are relatively recent and exact outcomes are still indeterminate.
Morocco: Intersection with Economic Development
Morocco has also achieved a remarkable feat in mitigating the effects of climate change locally – they were ranked second in the Climate Change Performance Index of 2018. It has accomplished this by incorporating various climate change initiatives into its development strategies. Two strategies of note are concentrations on renewable energy and climate mitigating agricultural innovations.
First, switching to renewable energy is perhaps the most prominent climate change initiative in Morocco right now. Morocco aims to generate 52% of its electricity from renewable energy and stimulate local manufacturing through these new energy resources. Various positive results have been demonstrated through this focus thus far, including the construction of one of the world’s largest solar farms in addition to numerous wind farms. This effective transition is also attributed to emphasizing economic development and direct involvement of local people.
Second, there is a successful orientation towards implementing climate-resilient agricultural practices. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has set up training programs in rural Morocco (in partnership with the government of Morocco) to learn about sustainable farming practices while simultaneously teaching farmers how to increase yields of currently running orchards.
More recently, there has been a focus on the implementation of terraced agro-forestry systems in the country’s Anti-Atlas region which would ensure regional sustainable development.
These two unique foci of Morocco present perhaps the most utilizable policy options for other countries to replicate in their own countries. Morocco has highly diversified the number of methods they are targeting climate change and thus other countries can easily manage to apply one of the country’s many strategies. From promoting local jobs to investing in research and development for new mitigating technologies, there are many applicable adaptation strategies at the ready.
Practical Implementation Strategies and Benefits
Each of these three countries offer unique paths forward for other countries in the Global South. Depending upon the primary arbiters of each strategy, there are various ways to approach climate mitigation. First, if focusing on government-based, top-down changes, all three countries provide unique and transferable models. The implementation of a carbon tax, the initiation of a nationwide green plan, and/or investing in renewable energy resources are smart strategies that have strong mitigation potential. Second, if focusing on new individual, bottom-up approaches, Ethiopia and Morocco provide strong examples of climate mitigation approaches via tree planting and and promoting climate-resilient agricultural practices respectively.
The benefits of implementing these strategies are wide-reaching. These countries have successfully shown that locally-based climate change action with minimal assistance from the Global North is possible. Morocco is even expected to be one of the only countries to exceed its Paris Agreement targets. By implementing new climate mitigation strategies across the Global South, the countries that are the most at risk of climate change are positioning themselves to be resilient in the face of expected consequences. Given the excessive emissions still being produced at this time by the Global North, the solutions being implemented as written above provide useful models for how to mitigate climate change given this set of circumstances.
Teddy Horowitz is an M.A. candidate at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs with concentrations in international development and international economic affairs. He received Bachelor’s degrees in both Economics and Anthropology from the University of South Florida. As an undergraduate student, Teddy received the Critical Language Scholarship and the Gilman Scholarship to study Russian in Vladimir, Russia and Astana, Kazakhstan respectively.