As world leaders begin to pack their bags for the Climate Summit in Copenhagen next month, feelings of anxiety may accompany the pressure to hammer out an international agreement to cap carbon emissions to keep our planet from entering a period of climate crisis. A group of people involved in the Climate Prosperity Alliance are working to shift the debate to a more positive and productive goal.
Instead of focusing on carbon-reduction strategies and schemes like cap and trade, “clean coal”, or carbon sequestration, the Climate Prosperity Alliance believes the Copenhagen Summit should be the entryway that leads the world into a global green economy.
While some analysts are already predicting a dismal outcome for the conference, citing the inability of major players such as the United States, India, and China to come to agreements on limiting the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they produce, Hazel Henderson of the Climate Prosperity Alliance sees another opportunity for victory. “The real win”, says Henderson, “would be to get all the countries in the North and South to agree that the best thing to do is invest in the developing world, building the infrastructure that would allow it to leapfrog the fossil fuel economy. Everyone is in favor of investing in low-emissions energy”.
The Climate Prosperity Alliance proposes that investing in a global infrastructure of renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind, and biofuel from algae, can not only prevent the creation of more greenhouse gases, but can foster a clean economy capable of competing with, and eventually overtaking traditional oil-dependent industrial practices.
Though the money necessary to fund this “re-industrialization” is considerable, investors are already showing interest in the project. In fact, the Climate Prosperity Alliance will arrive in Copenhagen with very good news – the announcement of the first $1 trillion in investments raised to build the global green economy. Henderson and the Climate Prosperity Alliance suggest that if the world focuses on investing $1 trillion per year from 2010 to 2020 in renewable projects in the developing world, the foundation will be laid for a clean energy economy capable of competing with, and eventually overpowering power sources dependent on oil.
This statement is supported by a report made by Climate Risk to the World Wildlife Fund using a computer model called CRISTAL (Climate Risk Industry Sector Technology Allocation) to calculate the speed required to re-industrialize the energy sectors to create a low-carbon economy and avoid catastrophic climate tipping points. “Government, industry and institutional investors can expect to see the benefits of their investment in transforming the energy sector from 2013. This is the point when the first of the renewable energy technologies starts to outperform the current fossil fuel, business-as-usual model.”
The report predicts the scale of renewable energy savings from 2013 to 2050 is expected to be in excess of US $41 trillion in a scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions are cut by 63 percent between 1990 and 2050, or over $47 trillion in the case that emissions for the same time period are reduced by 80 percent.
Climate Risk also indicates that a secure, long-term investment environment will be necessary to fund the global green economy. An innovative solution proposed by the Climate Prosperity Alliance is the issue of Climate Bonds whose proceeds go towards re-industrialization projects in the developing world. Buyers of these bonds are literally investing in the future, promoting clean energy and feeling secure about a positive return in more ways than just financial. The Alliance is also speaking to managers of pension funds, whose investments are generally stable and long-term, to divert their investments from hedge funds and oil-dependent companies into Climate Prosperity funds for the future.
Henderson added that in the fight against climate change, the obstacle is not a lack of money, but a lack of time. Every year of delay will increase the level of growth required and increase costs.
If the Alliance’s advice is taken to heart by world leaders in Copenhagen, we may yet succeed in moving the global economy by 2020 from its current system of resource-wasting industrialism to a new economically and environmentally sustainable resource-saving industrialism. “By itself,” states the Climate Risk report, “an emissions trading scheme will not promote the growth of important but initially higher-cost technologies. A comprehensive plan for low-carbon industrial development is an integral part of the solution. “
Agnes Mazur is a sustainability enthusiast based in San Jose, California. After completing her studies in Political Science, Spanish, and French at San Jose State University, she worked as a reporter in her native city of Warsaw, Poland. She has since returned to the Bay Area where she contributes to various efforts in sustainability including organizing an urban gardening project, researching up-and-coming green businesses, and attending various conferences about environmental sustainability. She hopes her love of world travel, nature and innovation can help change the world.
Hazel Henderson's insights on Climate Prosperity and many other topics on improving financial markets, growing green businesses, etc., can be found at www.ethicalmarkets.com.
So we help the developing world leapfrog the fossil fuel phase of industrialization -- certainly a positive step for the climate emergency. What then? What is the next resource that will peak? What about ecosystem resilience? I suspect it peaked sometime ago given the current extinction rates. Do we really think we can sustain a planetary ecosystem that is becoming ever more fragile? Do we think we are smart enough (even given globally interconnected geniuses) to keep something this complex operating?
If not, when in this bright green future, do humans begin to withdraw from large portions of the planet so non-human species can recover from our encroachment -- if they can? Or, is the bright green future just a de-carbonized version of our fantastical grow-forever present.
The approach proposed here of "leave it to investors to apply market forces to displacing fossil fuels" has a long and very highly promoted track record.
Sadly, our predicament is testament to its lack of function to date.
While we are now entering the crisis period where investor confidence faces massive disruption through both peak oil and climate destabilization, there is no particular dynamic proposed above to justify assuming that a free market solution will suddenly gain global efficacy.
A further blur in this investment prospectus is that the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is culpable for less than 40% of the Warming observed. So, if the provision of renewable power were eventually one day so cheap as to swamp all fossil fuel demand, that is, cheap enough to preclude displaced coal staying on the world market for the next bidder to buy and burn, then that would be rather less than 40% of the GHG output problem resolved.
Moreover, this free market approach could of course do nothing of itself to co-ordinate the requisite global effort to reduce the dangerously excessive volume of CO2 already in the atmosphere.
Professor Pachauri, and others of his calibre, are on record as stating that we need to peak global GHG outputs by around 2015 if we are to have a chance of staying below 2 degrees C of Warming. That target is far from granting safety - it would, according to the best UK research capacity, offer a 46% chance of avoiding the feedlack loops taking off and becomming irreversibly self-fuelling. (Feedback loops including permafrost melt, forest wildfire, methyl clathrates' collapse, snow-cover loss, etc).
I don't like those odds for avoiding catastrophe - and they rest on peaking GHG output by 2015, so I'll not support anything still less reliable.
Given that the free-market option proposed above cannot get anywhere near such an outcome as peaking GHG outputs by 2015, I don't see that promoting it here can bring anything but discredit to Worldchanging.
Finally, I should make clear that, alongside working for almost two decades so far for the (increasingly widespread) adoption of "Contraction & Convergence" as the negotiating framework for the Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons, I'm also engaged in a spread of small-scale simple-tech sustainable energy design projects. I consider the latter to be vital to the practical operation of the requisite treaty.
@Lewis - haven't you perhaps 'jumped the gun' about this story?
I.E. I from my reading of the text I don't think the Climate Prosperity Alliance are just suggesting to twist a few economic levers and it'll all be sorted out. It sounds like they're proposing a pretty clear infrastructure plan, just _funded_ by climate bonds.
I'm no fan of the 'free' (neoliberal) market either. But even those advocating planned (inc government-managed) responses to C.C. need to get some sort of economic system in synch to support it. And I don't see a huge problem if some of this comes from investor bonds rather than all tax dollars.
Anyway perhaps I should read up on their proposal some more too before I start defending it ;)
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What do you guy's suggest?