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Lord Stern: West must end hesitation over climate change

09.02.11 @ 17:39

  1. By Andrew Willis

BRUSSELS - Prince Charles and Lord Stern were among the prominent speakers in the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (9 February) who warned Europe and its Western allies against a slowdown in the fight against climate change.

  • A Texan oil pump. Last year's mid-term elections in the US saw a wave of climate change sceptics ushered into Capitol Hill (Photo: Paul Lowry)

Current economic difficulties presented an opportunity not a hurdle to move towards a low carbon economy, said Lord Stern, an economist at the London School of Economics who authored an eponymous report in 2006 on the costs of climate change.

"The case for urgent action is not just powerful, its also attractive," he said, adding that emerging countries such as China had increasingly grasped this while others, like the US, were moving backwards.

To contain the global temperature rise to two degrees and prevent mass migrations across the planet, emissions needed to be priced at a higher level, energy grids upgraded and a greater amounts of money spent on research and development, said the economist, calling the changes a "new industrial revolution."

"But if you look back, previous industrial revolutions brought two, three or four decades of strong growth, with huge investment returns for the pioneers," he added.

"The Chinese five-year plan outlines seven key industries such as clean technology and bio-energy, they are moving very strongly for the industries that will lead this new revolution."

Britain's Prince Charles hit out at climate sceptics who sought to use the current economic turmoil as a reason to slow progress towards a greener economy.

"Their suggestion that hundreds of scientists around the world ... are somehow unconsciously biased creates the implication that many of us are secretly conspiring to undermine and deliberately destroy the entire market-based capitalist system," he said.

"I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they failed their future; that they ignored all the clear warning signs by passing them off as merely part of a 'cyclical process'."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso conceded that fighting climate change had fallen down the agenda in recent years as governments struggled with weak budgets and high unemployment.

In March the commission is due to publish an Energy Efficiency Plan, together with a 2050 low carbon roadmap and a white paper on transport.

EU policy makers have repeatedly called on member states to step up efforts to reach the EU's 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020, but have shied away from making the target binding in the same way that EU renewable and emission targets are.

Commission officials are also currently mulling plans to produce a specific list of resource efficiency targets this summer which could ultimately be tied to similar restrictions on member state debt and deficit levels.

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