Fight against global warming may
hinge on 'green' energy investments
Aug 28, 2007 - William J. Kole -Associated
VIENNA, Austria - They could be powerful
new weapons in the battle against global warming:
turbines powered by waves or wind, or technology that
scrubs the skies to recapture and recycle carbon.
The struggle to contain and reverse
climate change may hinge on whether governments and
corporations choose those kinds of environmentally
friendly options in the next two decades, U.N. experts
"Climate change may turn out to be an
environmental question with an economic answer," said
Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official.
a projected $20 trillion will be spent on energy infrastructure
between now and 2030. More than 1,000 experts meeting
in Vienna this week are trying to come up with ways
to ensure that as much of that cash as possible goes
toward projects that will efficiently generate clean
Governments can help by enacting legislation
that gives companies tax breaks, subsidies and other
incentives to invest in clean technology, de Boer
Another option, he said, could be an international
tax on air travel - a levy that would raise an extra
$10 billion-$15 billion a year.
But industry will
have to take the lead. The private sector accounts
for 86 percent of all energy investment, the U.N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change says in a new
It says additional investments of about $210
billion a year will be needed _ mostly in the developing
world - to maintain greenhouse gas emissions at their
current levels in 2030.
"The investment decisions
that are taken today will affect the world's emissions
profile ... for many more years to come," the report
Negotiators in Vienna are laying the groundwork
for a major climate summit to be held in December
in Bali, Indonesia.
Officials say a new treaty is
needed to eventually replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol,
which requires 35 industrial nations to cut their
global-warming emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels
by 2012, when Kyoto expires. They also say private
industry needs to see a long-term international agreement
in place before it sinks money into "green" energy
Underscoring the lucrative business opportunities
that climate change has spawned, the World Bank says
the global carbon market - where government and industry
limits on carbon dioxide emissions are traded like
credits - tripled from $7.9 billion in 2005 to $24.4
billion last year.
Companies need to do some fast
thinking, U.N. experts say, because 40 percent of
the world's power generation infrastructure will be
replaced in the next five years.
"What they do today,
they could be stuck with for the next 25 or 30 years,"
de Boer said.
The U.N. is promoting clean alternatives
that use new technology to capture and recycle pollutants
that damage the Earth's atmosphere.
One such project,
a joint U.S.-Chinese initiative at China's largest
coal methane-fired power plant, captures methane -
a volatile gas that, like carbon dioxide, contributes
to global warming - and converts it into electricity.
But environmental organizations chided de Boer's office
for shifting the focus from coral reefs to carbon
The Climate Action Network, an umbrella group,
issued a statement suggesting the fight against global
warming should be motivated by altruism, not avarice.
"The shift away from the business-as-usual path to
a clean, efficient and safe energy future is not about
additional costs, but about saving money, species
and human lives," it said.