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Renewable Investments Top Carbon Fuels

June 4, 2009

According to a UN report, global investments in renewable energy overtook investments in carbon-based fuels for the first time, attracting $155 billion last year.

Of that amount, $36 billion was invested into creating clean energy in emerging economies like China, while $106 billion was spent developing power from wind, solar, small-hydro, biomass and geothermal sources.

The 2008 number was four times greater than investments in 2004 according to a report created for the UN Environment Program’s (UNEP) Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative.

Wind power collected the highest number of investments with $51.8 billion, while solar energy attracted $33.5 billion, a 49 percent increase.

Biofuels saw a nine percent drop in investments to $16.9 billion.

Thanks to a global economic downturn, new investments fell by 53 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period last year.

“Without doubt the economic crisis has taken its toll on investments in clean energy when set against the record-breaking growth of recent years,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General.

Government-backed stimulus packages created to shore up their economies are helping to boost the sector with many of them pumping funds into green projects and research into renewable energy sources.

“However, the biggest renewables stimulus package of them all can come at the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in just over 180 days time,” said Steiner, referring to the UN-hosted climate change conference in December.

“This is where governments need to seal the deal on a new climate agreement — one that can bring certainty to the carbon markets, one that can unleash transformative investments in lean and clean green tech,” he added.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of New Energy Finance, argued the United States and China should do more, even though they are leading the way spending 67 billion dollars each on sustainable energy.

“There is a strong case for further measures, such as requiring state-supported banks to raise lending to the sector, providing capital gains tax exemptions on investments in clean technology, creating a framework for Green Bonds and so on, all targeted at getting investment flowing,” he said.

“What’s most important is that stimulus funds start flowing immediately, not in a year or so.”

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