Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

A Marshall Plan for Energy, Water and Agriculture in Developing Countries

Richard L. Lawson, John R. Lyman

April 2007

Atlantic Council


Today, hunger, poverty, and desperation remain prevalent throughout much of the developing world. If we are to live in a 21st century more prone to peace than violence, the developed countries must move expeditiously to address the developing countries' requirements for energy, water, and agricultural production. The availability, accessibility and affordability of energy, water and food supplies are vital to the economic development that is required to alleviate global poverty, to reduce global tensions, and to address global environmental degradation.

The challenge ahead is to ensure adequate supplies of energy, water and food to the billions of people currently deprived of these necessities. The needs of the developing countries cannot be met by following the historical pattern of development in the industrialized countries. Growing concerns over resource availability and the potential adverse environmental consequences of following historical industrialization patterns lead to the conclusion that the world is on an unsustainable growth path. In order to address such issues, the International Energy Agency recently concluded that "unprecedented cooperation will be needed between the developed and developing regions, and between industry and government". The magnitude of the challenge is immense and requires urgent actions.

Without a radical change in policies in the developing and developed countries, there will still be about the same number of people without access to electricity (1.5 billion) and the same number of people continuing to rely on non-commercial biomass fuels (2.5 billion) in 2025 as today. This will occur even if the developing countries consume almost 60 percent of the growth in global energy supplies and increase their share of global energy supplies from 30 percent today to over 40 percent in 2025.