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Future of green is not so black, say some environmentalists

Future of green is not so black, say some environmentalists

The deepening economic crisis may appear to be the perfect storm for environmentalism, but many in and around the green movement contend the opposite, seeing in it a time of opportunity.
The conventional view is this: willingness to protect the environment is wedded to prosperity.
When times get tough, people tighten their belts - so their eagerness to switch to renewable energy, buy a more fuel-efficient car or promote forest conservation melts faster than organic ice cream in the Sahara.
Environmentalists and observers of green issues are not deaf to this argument. Indeed, many fear backtracking on a colossal scale at the upcoming U.N. talks on global warming, unfolding in Poznan, Poland, in December.
But these voices also say that conventional wisdom is flawed in many ways, sometimes unexpectedly so.
For instance, a worsening economy causes less greenhouse-gas emissions in the short term, as it lowers consumption of dirty coal, oil and gas by factories, homes, planes and cars.
"In one month, the crisis has done more for the environment than all the environmental summits in the world," is the ironic conclusion of Marc Fiorentino, president of EuroLand Finance, a French finance company that specializes in investment for small companies.
Others argue that tighter budgets and a lower oil price will not wipe out solar, wind and other clean sources that have enjoyed a surge in investment in recent years.
In the 1980s, a fall in the price of crude ended the first dawn of green energy, as the big economies, led by the United States, returned to their dependence on oil.
Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Geneva, said corporations today believed that oil prices, while volatile, "will jump up and down at a high level," with demand sustained by a burgeoning world population and limited supplies of crude.
This leads to a happy conjunction of interests, he said. High prices encourage less use of energy and thus lead to less greenhouse-gas emissions.
"The measures that you need to tackle energy efficiency are the same that you will need to tackle climate change," said Stigson. "About 40 percent of the action needed to reduce CO2 levels in the world will come from energy efficiency."
Geopolitics
Another long-term factor to buoy the green cause is geopolitics, he said.
The United States was branded by memories of a dollar price for oil that zoomed into the triple figures. This trauma would be an enduring boost to locally-produced energy, including renewables and "clean" coal technology, said Stigson.
"The same issues that you have to address if you want to reduce dependence on imported oil, and create a higher degree of energy security, are the same issues that you must address from a climate perspective," he argued.
Other voices suggest that September-October 2008 may be remembered as a watershed in economic doctrine.
The frenzied worship of the lightly-regulated market place could be replaced by a humbler, wiser approach, of linking economic growth to natural resources, social needs and smarter technology, they hope.
Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at Britain's University of Surrey, said the obsession with short-term profits and consumer-driven growth was now proven to be unstable as well as environmentally destructive.
"The old way of thinking about economy is up for negotiation, and the opportunities to build economies that incorporate both financial and environmental prudence are there to be taken," he said.
"What's needed is political leadership that understands this link and is prepared to act on it."


Updated : 2021-06-12 20:14 GMT+08:00