January 31, 2008

$20 Trillion Needed to Fight Global Warming

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported that global warming could come at a high economic cost to the world. Ban estimates that it could cost up to $20 trillion over two decades for cleaner energy sources, harming those who earn low incomes and are unable to quickly adapt.

In his 52-page report, Ban says that global investments of $15 trillion to $20 trillion over the next 20 to 25 years may be necessary "to place the world on a markedly different and sustainable energy trajectory."

The Associated Press reported that Ban provides an overview of U.N. climate efforts in preparation for the 192-nation General Assembly's two-day climate debate in February. That debate is intended to shape U.N. policy on climate change leading up to a new climate treaty in 2009, which will replace the Kyoto Treaty when it expires in 2012 thus shaping the course of climate change policy for decades to come.

The Kyoto pact currently requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent.

Lately, the spotlight has been on the United States as it is the only major industrial nation to reject the treaty. Many are focusing on the upcoming election as an opportunity to take new approaches to climate change issues.

The global energy industry spends about $300 billion a year in new plants, transmission networks and other new investment, according to U.N. figures.

"Cutting emissions is a very important dimension, but that's not enough for this equation," Srgjan Kerim, a Macedonian diplomat and economics professor and is president of the U.N. General Assembly told AP. "Inventing new technologies, renewable energies, investing more in research and development, is also a very viable way and remedy for resolving the problem."

A Nobel Prize-winning U.N. team of scientists, called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned of severe consequences such as rising seas and droughts if drastic changes of emissions are not made.

The panel advised that emissions should be reduced by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

"To approach the issue must be a forward looking way," Kerim told AP. "We have to now try to find a way out. And to find a way out, you don't look in the rear mirror which shows you the back of your car."

Richard Branson, whose Virgin brand has made him a billionaire, decided to invest in "biofuels." Kerim told AP that Branson will be a special guest at the assembly meeting.

Like Ban, who said in December that his No. 1 priority is persuading the world to agree to new controls on global warming gases before the end of 2009, Kerim calls the challenges of climate change "my flagship topic."

Ban warned that climate change would have a greater affect on women than men "as it increases the risk to the most vulnerable and less empowered social groups," he said.

"Women in poorer communities are going to face greater challenges protecting their children from the spread of diseases, polluted water, water shortages and so on," Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said.


On the Net:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

United Nations