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World Leaders at Davos Call for Climate to Remain in Focus

With the economic crisis likely to dominate much of 2009, world leaders in Davos urged climate change issues to remain in focus.

A satellite image showing a large plume of Saharan Desert blowing northeastward across Europe

The world faces environmental as well as economic pressures

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others attending the World Economic Forum warned against letting the economic worries overshadow the need to solve the climate issues as the two were interconnected.

Brown said that climate change would feature prominently at the next G20 meeting in April as it was "essential to recovery of the world economy."

"The main obstacle during 2009 on the road to Copenhagen may be the financial crisis," said Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen.

In December, representatives of most countries will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark and attempt to knock out a new climate deal, but some environmentalists have expressed concern that not enough will be done before then to enable the nations to reach an agreement.

"We have to get it right in Copenhagen, there is no second chance here," said Yvo De Boer, head of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"We must decide to put a price on carbon," said Al Gore, the former US vice president, adding that President Barack Obama would play a positive role in combating climate change.

"He is pushing hard for dramatic and bold moves in the right direction," said Gore, noting that the House of Representatives had passed a stimulus bill, "the largest component of which is a green stimulus."

"We must appreciate the magnitude of change in United State's leadership," said Gore.

The previous administration in Washington, DC, was accused of hindering attempts to reach agreements on climate change.

Alternative energy sources as economic benefits

A group of 260-foot-high wind towers are silhouetted against a bright orange sky at the Elk River Wind farm near Beaumont in Kansas, USA.

Experts at Davos say alternative energy can help the economy

Panelists at sessions in Davos said alternative energies, to replace oil, coal and other sources of power which emit carbon dioxide and create pollution, would also have economic advantages and help spur the economy, and could be an essential part of spurring the world out of the downturn.

Ban compared advancing green technologies to "killing two birds with one stone."

Reaching the goals in Copenhagen, Rasmussen said, would require industrialized and developing nations to work together to set reduction targets.

Carbon trading seen as a way forward

With the issues of climate change and the global economic crisis coming to a head simultaneously, world leaders have focused on tying the two together, and businessmen Saturday were trying to find ways to make money from a green economy.

Europe's carbon credit trading program, in its second phase, is seen as being on the path to putting a price on pollution and creating a market that would allow for profit making.

"Pricing and cost will force a lot of adjustment for people," said Pierre LaGrange, an alternative energy investor, but added that a trading program "could only work if it were globally accepted."

He said Europe's politicians have expressed interest in setting more aggressive carbon reduction goals, if the rest of the world got on board.

With the 192 countries planning to meet in December in Copenhagen, in attempt to reach a new global climate deal, engaging with developing nations will be crucial to the outcome of the process.

Scheme plans to trade carbon like currency

General view to the Schwarze Pumpe coal power plant in Spremberg, eastern Germany

Countries could trade carbon credits like currency

Capping carbon emissions would force producers who exceed their permitted output amounts to buy credits from companies who have not, creating new jobs in the new market and also reducing carbon outputs by attaching a price to it.

To get people trading across borders, Lars Josefsson, from the large European power producer Vattenfall, suggested treating the credits in each country - which would each likely introduce its own system - like currency exchanges, which let people with one brand of cash do business with someone with another.

"This is a pragmatic way to go about globalizing cap and trade markets," he said, referring to the markets to cap or limit carbon emissions by trading them.

Ultimately, LaGrange said, the caps on emissions will have to be extended to the user, and not only to the energy producer.

"The place to start is behavior change," said US Congressman Brian Baird. "The goal should be 20 per cent reduction in 20 weeks. Just walk through your daily life and see how much you can reduce."

"Energy efficiency is very doable, and 50 per cent of the solution," said Nic Frances, who runs a company which focuses on reducing power consumption. "It's what we do in our homes, domestic energy efficiency."

Fears of greedy exploitation of carbon trading

The engine of a Toyota Prius hybrid on display

Manufacturing electric and hybrid cars would create jobs

Concerns though have been made that carbon trading would lead to yet another market which could be used for profit without bringing about the needed improvements to the environment, while also it would inhibit the creation of new technologies and instead focusing on cleaning up the old ones.

"Cap and trade is fine," said Daniel Sperling, an author of Two Billion Cars, a book focusing on the growing number of polluting vehicles in the world.

"But we need something more technology forcing, which stimulates innovations," Sperling, a transportation expert, told the DPA news agency, adding that the economy would benefit.

In his own field, he said, new, cleaner cars would create more jobs.

"You can lower costs, create jobs and reduce lethal overheating," said Baird, using his preferred term in place of climate change, "and put money back in the pockets of consumers."

Hopes were pinned on the new US administration taking the steps to make it happen.

"If we turn climate change into an opportunity, it is the biggest opportunity since World War Two," said Josefsson, referring to the economic expansion that was brought about as a result of the war.

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