On the heels of a major study that says world leaders must act urgently to avert a looming environmental catastrophe, Germany's environment minister has called on the country to invest heavily in green technology.
The consequences for the global economy are serious
In a new strategy paper released by Germany's environment minister on Monday, Sigmar Gabriel said new technologies in the fight against climate change and environmental pollution should become a central pillar of the German economy.
"This is about many thousands of billions of euros and environmental markets that are going to be decisive in the 21st century," he told reporters in Berlin at the presentation of the paper called "Memorandum for a New Deal between Business, Environmental and Employment."
He said gas-saving cars, clean power plants and recycling technologies must be recognized as the booming markets of the future and suggested creating an "industrial cabinet," which would provide market stimuli for innovation in the green sector.
Sigmar Gabriel wants Germany to invest heavily in green technology
Gabriel said investing in environmental technologies would result in a "double dividend," since it would protect the environment while earning green-oriented German firms billions.
Germany is already one of the world leaders in green technology, which puts the country in a strong position to lead in sectors such as renewable energy, fuel and energy-saving devices and clear power plants which produce very little or no carbon dioxide emissions, which are largely responsible for climate change.
"Instead of hindering markets and their growth, we have to refashion them in ecological and sustainable ways," Gabriel said.
Consequences of climate change could be"disastrous"
Gabriel's policy paper coincides with a stark warning by former World Bank Chief Economist Sir Nicholas Stern that the world could face economic fallout in the future on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s if it didn't invest now in green taxes or emissions trading programs.
In a report released in London on Monday, Stern singled out the United States, China and India as economic powerhouses whose backing is crucial for a global solution.
Sir Nicholas Stern didn't mince his words
"There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and act internationally," he said, launching his 600-page report in London. "The task is urgent. Delaying action even by a decade or two will take us into dangerous territory."
His message was backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was at the report's launch in central London with his finance minister and likely successor Gordon Brown.
"Should we fail to rise to this challenge, I don't believe we will be able to explain ourselves to future generations," said Blair, warning of "disastrous" consequences for the planet unless
action was taken swiftly.
Inaction to prove costly
The Stern review estimates that worldwide inaction could cost the equivalent of between five and 20 percent of global gross domestic product every year, forever.
By contrast, the cost of action is equivalent to one percent of GDP, a "manageable" increase equivalent to a one-time price increase of goods of one percent, Stern said.
Much of the world is drying out
To address the situation, the economist called for carbon pricing, policies to support low-carbon technologies and more education of individuals about how they can tackle climate change.
He also advocated the expansion of international frameworks on emissions trading, technology cooperation, deforestation and adaptation to climate change to develop a co-ordinated approach to climate change.
Brown also announced that former US Vice-President Al Gore, who earlier this year released "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary about climate change, will become one of his personal advisors on green issues.
Stern warned that global warming, if left unchecked, could lead to economic upheaval on the scale of the Great Depression, or climate catastrophes many times worse than last year's Hurricane Katrina in the US.
He also suggested that rich countries should pay more than poor ones to offset their higher levels of carbon emissions.
"The poor countries will be hit earliest and hardest," he said. "It is only right that the rich countries should pay a little more."
His report is thought to be the first heavyweight contribution to the debate on climate change by an economist rather than a scientist.
Environmentalists hail study
The study was welcomed by green groups and others.
"The Stern Review is a wake-up call to the world," said Hans Verolme, Director of environmental group WWF's Global Climate Change Program.
A spell of dry weather and high ozone levels has damaged trees
The report "provides a step-change in the way we think about climate change," said Beverley Darkin of the Chatham House think tank in London.
"It is no longer an issue to be tackled solely by those working on environment and science issues."
EU urged to do more
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday that the EU must step up its own fight against global warming, saying at a conference in Lisbon that he would unveil proposals next year to increase energy efficiency and step up the use of renewable energies.
He also urged EU governments to open up debate on the use of nuclear energy.
"We cannot hide from the issue," he said. "A debate on nuclear energy in Europe should not be taboo."
France produces almost 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants while Germany, which relies on nuclear energy for 30 percent of its needs, plans to shut all nuclear power stations by 2021. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week she thought the plan was unwise.