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Female Literacy and Sustainable Development

Published 27th November 2010 - 2 comments - 1137 views -

The emission causing activities can be somewhat exhaustively mapped to two main factors, human footprint and the energy sources. The key to curb the macro level issue of the emissions though should take up a more fundamental approach – addressing at the micro level and following the bottom-up approach.

As I have mentioned in my previous post about a developing nation like India's dilemma over strictly addressing the issue of climate change, policies addressing the dichotomous objectives of sustainability and development are the need of the hour. These policies will need a well structured infrastructural and institutional landscape to leverage the existing civil status and psychologies and change them for good.

A latest study by the Center for Global Development provides economic evidence by performing a cost-benefit analysis between investments in clean energy technologies and female education and fertility reduction to address the emission phenomena. In India and other developing nations, where social policies and schemes take away a huge chunk of government expenditure, the increased investment in clean energy technologies will mean, due to budgetary limitations, reallocating that chunk of socio-economic development fund. This reallocation is neither justified nor impactful to address the climate change problem. In fact, as the study in a way shows, the reallocation can compromise with both the development and sustainability motives.

The authors David Wheeler and Dan Hammer argue that financing social outlets to support female literacy and family planning contributes more towards climate change mitigation and adaptation than abatement options through technical means. Their calculus and econometric approach suggests that “both female education and family planning are highly cost competitive with almost all of the existing options for carbon emissions abatement via low-carbon energy and forestry/agriculture”. For 80 out of 88 developing countries which they sampled, carbon emission abatements costs via family planning and female education are significantly lower than nuclear power and the widely discussed renewable energy options. Comparing their estimates with the technical abatement options that have been estimated by Nauclér and Enkvist in a major study for McKinsey (2009), Wheeler and Hammer deduce that,

The population policy options are less costly than almost all of the Nauclér/Enkvist options in low-carbon energy and forestry/agriculture, and far less costly than the renewable energy options that are receiving the lion‟s share of current attention.

Through a credible list of data sources and approaches, they formulated a country based matrix stating the per ton of carbon abatement costs of these two policy responses and compared it with the numerous options and the costs of the McKinsey report. They calculate that every $1 million spent on these two metrics would save 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission. In comparison, investing the same amount in energy-efficient buildings would save 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide; in nuclear energy, 40,000 tonnes; and in carbon capture and storage, a lowly 26,316 tonnes [source: Wallstreet Journal].

The results clearly highlight the significance of women in achieving the sustainability in development and climate change addressing. So what is the rationale behind the study's results? As I said, the climate change problem can be mainly mapped to human footprint and energy sources. Women are solely responsible for the two issues at the household level in a developing nation. Education will directly and positively influence the adoption of sustainable practises while addressing the energy needs of the household. Literacy and family planning also slow population growth, thus reducing the human footprint.

Category: Sustainable Development, | Tags:


Radovana Jagrikova on 30th November 2010:

Intersting reading and good point - importance of female literacy; however, there is one thing I would like to mention, which you probably realise as well, but still:

Family planning is not merely an issue of women - responsible fathers are equally important (if women are educated and well-informed about family planning and some men are still acting as they please, it might lead to some positive results, but also to violence and rapes).

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