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Are developing countries cancelling out the environmental gains that developed countries are making with their use of green and energy-saving technologies?



PflŸgen, Sahelzone

Photo: Albrecht E. Arnold /

It seems plausible that the rapid growth in the populations and economies of developing and newly industrialised countries would create a demand for large quantities of resources and that consuming those resources would damage the environment. And because these countries are not as advanced as developed countries, they would certainly find it harder to minimise the negative effects. Developed countries have access to far more resources (especially financial resources) that can help them to develop environmentally friendly and energy-efficient technologies.

But the reality is that developed countries use 60 to 70 percent of all resources consumed worldwide. This is because they have much higher per capita consumption, which is a result of the more luxurious lifestyles that people here lead. Until the developed world changes its patterns of production and consumption, it will remain the main cause of the environmental problems we are facing today.

It therefore makes good, undeniable sense for developed countries to put their own house in order first. If they succeed, they could serve as role models for developing and newly industrialised countries. Brazil and China, for example, are watching Germany with great interest to see how it progresses in its efforts to make the switch to renewable energy sources.

Saskia Blank from the Ideas 2020-Team answered this question in collaboration with Jürgen Kopfmüller, Head of research area “Sustainability and environment” at the Karlsruher Institut for Technology (KIT) Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS).