We all know by now that roughly 80% of our global energy needs come from carbon emitting fuels. The challenge ahead of us is stunning. A McKinsey Report highlights that we get $740 of GDP for every ton of Co2. All the Plans in place argue that we need to move to $7,300. This 10 x increase is comparable to the shift in productivity of the 19th century Industrial revolution and we want to get there by 2030.

What about the Majority World? Logistics can play a key role in transforming connectivity for remote rural areas and, in ways of work and living within congested urban communities. What more can be done to deliver environmental change in the Majority World?

There is no silver bullet and behaviours – reducing demand – will play a much bigger part than blue sky thinking on alternative sources of energy. We could focus our attention on China. The factory of the World is making things worse but that trade off between growth and the green agenda is not easy if the developed World makes the Green Agenda into a spectator sport. We could focus the USA. And there is no doubt that things have to change. However, a few facts will bring us back to the Majority World fast.

1. The Developing World (excluding China) represents >40% of the total abatement opportunity up to 2030. Think of the places where people live and work in the Majority World.  

2. 70% of the total abatement potential is NOT dependent on new technology. This takes us straight to the supply chains highlighted throughout this Blog. How can we innovate with what we are doing?

3.  Industry and power represent less than 50% of the total abatement potential for 2030. Maybe we could look more closely at the way we use the space we live in – both urban and rural – and, how this is connected to markets.

Soon, an estimated 70% of global population will live in cities and most of them in 50 major Mega City Regions. Urban Critical mass and productivity gains are well known. So too the congestion and ever increasing numbers in shadow settlements and there is a pressing need to address the fact that it will cost more to sort out legacy cities than it will to build a network of new towns and cities that can absorb the population spread with a lower carbon “spend”.

The need for these new towns and cities becomes even clearer when we look at the challenge of improving the connectivity of remote rural regions. After all, India has 600,000 villages. The argument runs that “aggregation centres” would serve groups of villages with broadband, market access, food and medical supplies. And the innovation would look to how affordable physical movement of goods and people can be set up.

As is noted from the Philippines to India to South America, the current crisis is pushing migrant workers back home. Take China and the 200 million that went home from the cities over Chinese New Year. How many had jobs to return to? And, by how much have remittances been reduced from Kerala to Manilla? The pressure to rethink urbanisation along green lines is clear.

Years ago, I recall HeatWise Glasgow. The idea was to insulate council houses. The project gave work to the unemployed and, the impact reduced demand for energy and unpaid bills. A not insignificant sum. The same was done in Hull and elsewhere.

As we focus the supply chains that run within the Informal economy and link cottage industries to larger corporations, there is real scope to develop similar strategies to reduce demand from end-to-end.

What can be done to move things better, cheaper and using less energy?

  • At a Policy level. To take the big decisions on spatial geography and, enable investments to replace low efficiency capital stock. The aggregation model can help.
  • On physical movement of goods. There are all sorts of innovations that are affordable, adaptable and should be made more accessible.
  • On information technology.  Telecommunications technology can facilitate greater understanding of specific needs and enable better – more fuel efficient – coordination of logistics.Note. The LSCM are looking at a number of carbon initiatives right now.
  • On finance. The fact is that many ideas need the oxygen of cash to happen. People on a dollar a day or, on subsistence wages cannot save and accumulate cash. Some would argue that micro loans fill a gap but others would argue that more will have to be done to release funds for step change projects. Especially now in recessionary times.  

Behaviour is going to be key and, the Majority World does have valuable experience that investment could capitalise on. The Indians have a word for it Jugaad – a can do / make do spirit. People in the shadow lands have honed their survival skills and recycling or getting more from less is a fact of a tough life. Not only does it make sense to review ways in which logistics can transform lives, we need to look hard at how logistics in the Majority World can transform the Green Agenda. It could drive more than we think but, have we ever even asked the questions?