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America must now lead the 'greening' of the Global economy, says President Obama

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Frontline Online: Greening The Global Economy

January 29th, 2013

by Lorna Howarth

The Ecologist's Lorna Howarth reports on news and action from the environmental frontline

Economic growth and sustainability are interdependent, you cannot have one without the other

There’s usually little environmental debate at the World Economic Fourm (WEF) in Davos, a gathering that typifies the corporate paradigm, however this year a WEF-commissioned report by the Green Growth Action Alliance (a public/private coalition of more than 50 financial institutions, companies, governments and non-governmental organizations) states that the world must spend an additional $14 trillion on clean energy infrastructure, low-carbon transport and energy efficiency to meet the United Nations’ goal for capping the rise in average global temperatures. 

The report states that, “Greening global economic growth is the only way to satisfy the needs of today’s population and up to 9 billion people by 2050, driving development and wellbeing while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing natural resource productivity.”

The extra spending amounts to about $700 billion per year until 2030, and according to former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, chairman of the Alliance, it would create a much-needed economic stimulus along with reducing the long-term costs associated with climate change. “It is clear that we are facing a climate crisis with potentially devastating impacts on the global economy,” Calderon said. “Economic growth and sustainability are interdependent, you cannot have one without the other, and greening investment is the pre-requisite to realizing both goals.” 

The report advocates that G20 governments accelerate the phasing-out of fossil-fuel subsidies, enact long-term carbon price signals, enable greater free trade in green technologies, and expand investment in climate adaptation. The authors of the report note too that a $36 billion annual increase in global public spending to slow climate change is less than the estimated $50 billion in damages caused by Superstorm Sandy alone, just one of many climate-related disasters in 2012.

Just last week in President Obama’s inaugural speech, he proclaimed: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.

But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasures – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks..." 

So it seems even in the upper echelons of global governance there is now a new willingness to accept the reality of climate change and that in adapting to it, there is the potential to create meaningful work and a liveable planet for future generations.

Lorna Howarth is a writer and environmentalist. She is a contributing editor to Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and the founder of a small independent publishing agency:

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