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The economic environment: Addressing global warming more complex since global financial crisis

By Simon Kent - 07 Jan 2011 17:40:49 GMT
The economic environment: Addressing global warming more complex since global financial crisis

Addressing the issue of global warming has become a more complex task since the advent of the global financial crisis. Speaking to The Earth Times after the recent round of talks at Cancun, Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission's environment unit and the EC's chief negotiator on climate change, noted that while the economic downturn in developed countries had resulted in lower emissions, other countries such as China and India have remained unaffected and had seen their emissions continue to rise.

It is too early at this stage to assess whether the overall effect of this has been a significant decrease in the amount of greenhouse gasses produced.

Mr Runge-Metzger also noted that the demand for greater efficiencies from companies caused by the economic situation actually complimented the aim of reducing emissions around the globe: "Companies have been under financial pressure and those companies are trying to become more efficient," he said. "That is always good for climate change because it means they will try and save energy and therefore money on the balance sheet."

However, the situation isn't entirely positive. While there is pressure on private organisations to spend less money, the same pressure exists for governments, with the result that green initiatives and investments may not be so forthcoming. "There may not be the financial capacity to make major investments in clean technology," said Mr Runge-Metzger. "There is also pressure on legislative standards not to make those standards too high."

The perception that high legislative standards for the green performance of organisations and companies is bad for the economy is one which has dogged the environmental agenda. The economic downturn has exacerbated the situation with private enterprise campaigning on all fronts for a reduction in what they see as costly bureacratic or inhibitive demands. However research carried out by the EU and beyond suggests the green agenda is not anti-commercial, indeed it may be a source of economic success in the near future.

"The analysis we are doing says that technically [the reduction in emissions] can be done and it's not going to ruin our economy," says Runge-Metzger. "Indeed, this work can drive our economy forward if we invest in clean-tech products."

Not only that but it seems clear the technology required to achieve the global target of keeping global warming to an extra 2 degrees, is numerous and diverse. There is no one single technology that will deliver absolute success and the technology that will help countries control their emissions does not have to be complicated or expensive. "Many technologies such as insulation we have already," Runge-Metzger concludes. "These are important technologies and we don't need to wait to use them."