Emerging economies are increasingly taking the lead in shifting the world onto a cleaner development path, a senior World Bank official said on Wednesday, pointing to the role of China and India in pushing down the cost of producing solar power.

Ethiopia estimates it will need more than $150 billion to implement its national climate action plan. Meanwhile in India, recent auctions to construct and run solar plants have seen prices for solar energy drop as low as for coal-fired power, tilting the economics of the electricity market towards renewables.

John Roome, senior director for climate change at the World Bank, said India had evolved from a decade ago when it was seen as part of the problem, insisting on its people’s right to develop above all else. In the last two years it has become a leader on clean energy and climate action, he said.

But India and other big developing countries cannot make the transition alone, Roome added.

Moreover, the Indian solar power auction held in February in Madhya Pradesh – where the cost of solar fell to a level equal with fossil fuels for the first time – was backed by the World Bank. The financial organization provided funds for acquiring the land for a solar plant.

Major improvements in energy efficiency, alongside new technologies, can enable poorer countries to grow in a green way, Roome noted, “but it’s going to take very concerted work between the policies, the incentives, the financing (and) focusing on developing the markets”.

Experts and other participants at the Innovate4Climate conference pointed to trillions of dollars now sitting in low-yielding investments or cash, looking for higher returns – much of which could be used for sustainable development.

At the moment, less than 1% of global investment is certified as “green”, Roome noted.

Read more at Eyewitness News.