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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Reorienting investments to a transition to a clean energy economy will be the engine of growth for the U.S. economy

NewScientist, October 10, 2008

If the U.S. focused on curbing climate change as soon as a new president took office – or sooner – it could help pull the world from the financial brink, according to environmental policy experts.

"Skyrocketing energy prices and the financial crisis have been a wake-up call that something's got to change," says Cathy Zoi, chief executive officer of the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is chaired by former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore.

"My very strong belief is that we need to reorient our investments toward this transition to a clean energy economy, and it will be the engine of growth for getting us out of the doldrums that we've gotten in right now," says Zoi.

The reorientation must include limits on emissions of climate-warming carbon in the U.S., she said: "Unless we take action at home, we're not going to be able to have much influence in the international arena about what gets done."

The Bush administration accepts that human-spurred climate change is a reality, but rejects mandatory across-the-board caps on carbon as a disadvantage when competing with fast-growing, big-emitting countries like China and India.

The U.S. is alone among the major developed countries in staying out of the carbon-capping Kyoto protocol, but is part of international discussions on new targets to fight climate change, due to be finalized in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

Both major U.S. presidential candidates– Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain – favour requiring reductions in greenhouse emissions, and environmental activists says whoever wins the White House in the 4 November elections will be an improvement over president George W. Bush.

"There is an urgent need for whichever party wins the U.S. election to give an early signal [of an intent to do more to combat global warming], or there cannot be a credible reason for 190 nations to come together in Copenhagen," says Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Program.

Rajendra Pachauri, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Price with Gore and who chairs the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says an Obama presidency would probably be more favourable to the fight against climate change.

But he adds: "Even if McCain wins, he has been very committed."

There is little chance of passing a U.S. law to mandate a program to cap and trade carbon emissions before Bush leaves office in January.

However, the first draft of a cap-and-trade bill was released this week by U.S. Democratic representatives John Dingell of Michigan – home of the Big Three auto manufacturers – and Rick Boucher of Virginia – coal-mining country – that is likely to frame debate next year.

The draft legislation drew measured applause from environmental activists, who noted it contains options that could substantially weaken controls on greenhouse emissions from some sectors.

But the fact that these two law makers are crafting legislation aimed at curbing climate change indicates a possible change in tone in Washington.

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Owl said...

The sentiment is in the right place. But the scope of the global economic crisis should have even the AGW problem showing some quiet patience. Distracting the focus from the crisis could be the worst public relations disaster the environmental movement has ever initiated.

Anonymous said...

No one is going to be able to divert that much attention from the present financial crisis. And climate-related matters will be left to the next President.

What is important is to remain focused on the long-term issues, and it seems clear that we must move to a green economy and develop jobs in that sector where future growth lies.