Davos experts call for multilateral linking of economy, climate


2009 presents a diplomatic opportunity for governments of major economies to mobilise “unprecedented public-private collaboration” to address climate change as part of a wider economic growth agenda, participants in the World Economic Forum stated yesterday (29 January).

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Lord Nicholas Stern and many senior business and NGO representatives issued a statement at the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, warning world leaders against seizing upon cyclical emission reductions brought on by the recession as an excuse for delaying action on climate change. Instead, diverting money away from fiscal stimulus packages towards investment in low-carbon technologies can create jobs and reinvigorate the market, they said.

“This makes sense in simple risk-management terms: deploy a small percentage of global GDP now to help ward off the risk of much larger impacts in the future,” the statement claimed.

The call mirrored the conclusions of a World Economic Forum report presented in Davos on the scale of green-technology investment needed to shift to a low-carbon economy. The study argues that at least $515 billion will have to be invested in clean energy every year between now and 2030 to keep global warming below unsustainable levels, which is over three times the amount invested last year.

It identifies onshore and offshore wind, photovoltaic solar and thermal solar electricity generation as an example of a green energy sectors that will enable the required transition to a low-carbon economy (see EURACTIV’s LinksDossier on financing the low-carbon economy), alongside municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and next-generation biofuels, and geothermal power. 

“Enormous investment in energy infrastructure is required to address the twin threats of energy insecurity and climate change. In light of the global financial crisis, it is crucial that every dollar is made to ‘multi-task’ to create a sustainable low-carbon economy,” the report’s authors said, calling on policymakers to ensure that their fiscal stimulus packages support short-term consumption and jobs, while addressing the long-term goals of stronger production capacity and sustainable energy systems.

Smart policy is needed to prompt the shift, the report concludes. Industry support mechanisms need to be flexible, taking into account different geographies and the level of technological development in each sector, it stresses.

The various measures to support businesses include creating better conditions for venture capital investment – an area in which Europe is lagging behind the US – as well as creating new markets by favouring clean energy for public procurement and devising energy efficiency standards, the authors state.

They suggest a new platform should be created to complement the negotiations to reach a global climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol in December. This forum, connecting policymakers with major energy corporations and experts, could help make 2009 the year that made the green transition happen, they conclude.

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