01 February 2009

World Economic Forum Explores Green Strategies for Recovery

Environment News Service, January 29, 2009

DAVOS, Switzerland - "Climate change threatens all our goals for development and social progress," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the world's business and government leaders today at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. "On the other hand, it also presents us with a gilt-edged opportunity."

Ban's comments came as the World Economic Forum released a report warning that unless at least US$515 billion a year is invested in clean energy between now and 2030, carbon emissions will reach a level considered unsustainable by scientists, causing global temperatures to rise by two degrees Celsius.

"Green Investing: Towards a Clean Energy Infrastructure" identifies eight emerging, large-scale clean energy sectors critical to the clean energy infrastructure of the future - onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal electricity generation, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and next generation biofuels, and geothermal power.

Ban urged the high-powered audience to use the current economic crisis to launch a global Green New Deal that creates jobs and fights climate change by investing in renewable energy and technological development.

"By tackling climate change head-on we can solve many of our current troubles, including the threat of global recession," said Secretary-General Ban. "We stand at a crossroads. It is important that we realize we have a choice. We can choose short-sighted unilateralism and business as usual. Or we can grasp global cooperation and partnership on a scale never before seen."

At another session in Davos, Ban pushed for a climate change communication initiative that will explain, educate and ask for global engagement, leading to success at the UN climate change conference slated to be held in December in Copenhagen, where negotiations on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol are slated to conclude.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton today called for urgent U.S. leadership to stem the current financial crisis and restore the global economy and predicted an "explosion of jobs" from government stimulus-fueled investments in alternative energy technologies.

Clinton stressed the interdependence in the world economy, reminding governments that when they finance the U.S. recovery by buying U.S. Treasury bonds and securities they are investing in their own export economies.

"This financial crisis proves, as nothing else should - or could, the fundamental fact that global interdependence is more important than anything else in the world today," Clinton said. "We cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday said that to meet the financial crisis, his government will increase spending and implement a structural tax cut over the next two years. "The investment will mainly go to government-subsidized housing projects, projects concerning the well-being of rural residents, railway construction and other infrastructural projects, environmental protection projects and post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction," said Wen.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the forum Wednesday that trust in one another will pull nations through the current crisis. "Attaining mutual trust is a key task that we all have to solve. It is trust and solidarity that will help us overcome present difficulties, avoid many shocks and achieve prosperity and welfare in the 21st century."

Putin expressed the hope that the new U.S. administration would show interest in a constructive work with Russia. "We expect that all our partners - in Europe, Asia and America (I mean the new U.S. administration, whom we wish the success) - will show interest in a joint and constructive work with us."

Opening the annual meeting on Wednesday, Klaus Schwab founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum said, "What we are experiencing is the birth of a new era, a wake-up call to overhaul our institutions, our systems and, above all, our thinking and our actions, and to adjust our attitudes and values to the needs of a world which rightly requires a much greater degree of responsibility and accountability."

To overcome the fear and anger that the global financial crisis has engendered, Schwab said the forum will "support governments, and particularly the G20," group of industrialized and emerging economies "in their efforts to stabilize and relaunch the economy."

Schwab said the forum will address the 36 risks outlined in a pre-forum report released earlier this month, many of which deal with natural resource and climate issues.

The report cautions against ignoring interconnected risks related to natural resources. As world leaders focus on water availability, the report shows that water is critical to generating energy, with 50 percent of the cost associated with water supply related to energy.

It also warns of potential rising tensions between developed and developing countries with respect to climate change policy.

Raj Singh, chief risk officer of Swiss Re, which co-authored the report, said, "The poorest nations will suffer most from climate change because they lack the infrastructure and institutional framework to cope. Unfortunately, these are also the countries that are worst affected by weather-related disasters. The private sector can help them adapt to changing weather conditions with risk transfer solutions such as the weather insurance program we are running in Malawi with the World Bank."

The risk report concludes on a positive note, stating that 2009 could prove to be an opportune moment to strengthen global governance and build the political will to restore global financial stability, and focus on the longer term challenges of managing scarce resources and climate change.

"Today with the economic downturn and climate change, the stakes for companies have never been higher. But for businesses with vision, the rewards are equally high," said Secretary-General Ban. "The green economy is low-carbon and energy-efficient. It creates jobs. Investment in sustainable technologies will turn today's crisis into tomorrow's sustainable growth."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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