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Bill Clinton: Going green is good for economy

May 19, 2009 - Jae-Soon Chang - The Associated Press

The world can fight global warming in a way that makes sense economically, and the battle can even help countries overcome the ongoing economic crisis, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday.

Clinton stressed during an international climate change summit that it's possible today for economies to grow without emitting greenhouse gases, and the world must act now to cut emissions before it is too late.

"We know that if we don't reduce greenhouse gases by somewhere in the range of 80 percent by 2050, bad things are going to happen," Clinton said in a keynote speech at the third C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, held this year in Seoul.

Organizers say cities bear a significant responsibility to address climate change because they cover less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface but are overwhelmingly responsible for polluting it, generating 80 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Global warming could lead to a drop in food production and access to water, creating new dangers to public health, Clinton warned.

"It is absolutely certain if we let the worst happen, then the consequences will be so severe that we won't be able to save the planet for our grandchildren," Clinton said.

The former president, who now runs the Clinton Climate Initiative, joined mayors and leaders from some 70 cities around the world for a three-day conference to trade advice and share experiences on ways they have gone green.

Mayors will be discussing retrofitting buildings, energy-efficient lighting, building infrastructure for green vehicles and renewable energy technology. Environmentally friendly products, including electric cars and motorcycles, are on display at a separate expo.

"Retrofitting" refers to renovating old buildings to make them more energy-efficient.

Clinton acknowledged the reluctance in some cities to spend the money needed to go green at a time of economic hardship.

He said many still harbor the outdated notion that pollution is a necessary byproduct of industry, and that "a nation could not become rich, maintain a standard of living and improve it without putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."

"That is simply not true today."

Making the investment to reduce greenhouses gases may even help countries mired in the economic crisis by creating jobs, Clinton said.

China, for example, is suffering from "a loss of orders crisis" as the economic downturn cut demand for their products, leaving some 30 million factory workers unemployed, Clinton noted.

"How can they deal with the current climate crisis in a way that minimizes their lack of orders crisis?" he said. "Answer? Spend whatever money they spend, reducing greenhouse gases in the way that creates the most jobs."

The construction of environmentally friendly power plants generates far more jobs than building coal-powered plants, and retrofitting buildings that guzzle energy can provide many unemployed factory workers with work, he said.

New York's retrofitted Empire State Building emits 38 percent less in greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking 19,000 cars off the road, Clinton noted. And the changes are saving the tenants $4.5 million a year in electricity costs, Clinton said.

He also said a variety of loan guarantee mechanisms should be developed so companies can take out bank loans for green projects and repay them using their utility savings.

"We have to convince people who are not here that we know how to do it, and they can do it, and that is good economics, not bad economics," he told the conference. "We never ask anyone to bankrupt themselves in our climate change work."

The biennial summit was launched in 2005 in London and held in New York in 2007.


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