Spend money to aid economy on climate: U.N. official
By Gerard Wynn
MONACO (Reuters) - Governments should use public money aimed at deflecting the threat of recession to spur savings by backing energy efficiency too, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said.
UNEP is hosting 154-nation climate change talks this week in Monaco aimed at show-casing the need for government investment in the fight against climate change.
It is the biggest climate meeting since nearly 200 countries agreed in December in Bali, Indonesia, to launch talks on a new pact to fight global warming to succeed or extend the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.
"How can some of the economic stimulus now being considered be used for win-wins?" Achim said to reporters on Wednesday.
"Could some of the funds be spent on phasing in renewable energy?"
U.S. President George W. Bush last week signed into law a $168 billion economic stimulus package including billions of dollars in tax rebates and incentives for businesses to buy new equipment. The aim is to prop up market confidence after failing mortgage repayments fed a cycle of credit pullbacks by lenders.
Renewable energy and efficiency technologies are seen as central to the future of the world's economy, to fight climate change caused by burning fossil fuels and safeguard future energy supplies while saving money at a time of spiraling oil prices.
USING MARKETS AND FINANCE
UNEP published on Wednesday its UNEP Year Book 2008, in which the chief focus was a feature on "Using markets and finance to fight climate change."
Business is already working to fight climate change, the report said, citing institutional investors which demand that companies they invest in adhere to environmental standards.
U.S. investors pledged at a U.N. summit last week to invest $10 billion in emissions-cutting technologies and to put pressure on companies to disclose their risks associated with climate change.
Clean energy investment exceeded $100 billion last year, as businesses seek government subsidies to install solar power, for example, or to earn carbon offsets by investing in emissions cuts in developing countries through burgeoning carbon markets.
Governments needed to do more to motivate that effort, the UNEP report said.
"What has been missing so far is the political will and policy coordination that is needed to unleash the full creative capacity of the private sector," it said.
UNEP has bemoaned the fact that governments spend $200 billion annually subsidizing fossil fuels and just $33 billion on backing low-carbon technologies.
Government interest is rising in spurring green jobs and technologies but some countries and companies fear losses, too.
"Some of the biggest losers, the energy-intensive industries, also have the greatest political clout," the U.N.'s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, told reporters in Monaco.
(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Anthony Barker)